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Biggest expenses in Dane County's $700k presidential recount: workers, scanners

Biggest expenses in Dane County's $700k presidential recount: workers, scanners

Dane County Recount (copy)

Madison police keep an eye on boxes of ballots during a recount of the votes in Dane County at Monona Terrace last month. According to Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, costs for MPD's service totaled $104,306.

Dane County incurred over $729,700 in costs to administer the presidential recount election, coming in about $11,000 under Clerk Scott McDonell’s original estimate to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

The total cost of the recount, $729,733, included expenses for recount staff, security, room rental at Madison’s Monona Terrace, tabulator machines and election software. McDonell’s original estimate for the cost of the recount was $740,808.

Among the most expensive items: the county paid $243,122 for temporary workers who tabulated the ballots during the week-and-a-half long process and $129,530 for high speed scanners. Security costs included $104,306 for the Madison Police Department and $8,694 for a private security company.

[Republican lawmakers hold up Wisconsin recount funds as counties finalize costs]

The partial recount of the November election, requested and paid for by President Donald Trump, targeted liberal Dane and Milwaukee counties and served as a vehicle for the president and his allies to mount a series of legal challenges in the state that President-elect Joe Biden won by fewer than 21,000 votes.

Milwaukee County officials haven’t responded to requests in recent days seeking the costs of administering the recount there. The county had previously estimated doing so would amount to just over $2 million.

The Legislature’s Republican-led budget panel, the Joint Finance Committee, earlier this month refused to reimburse Dane and Milwaukee counties for the costs tied to the recount. The process was held up after one member raised an anonymous objection to the reimbursement request, meaning the full committee might have to meet before the dollars are passed on, even though the state already has $3 million from Trump’s campaign to cover the counties’ estimated recount costs.

Co-chair Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said in a statement last week the committee is waiting for final figures to be completed and shared. The situation drew the ire of Dane County officials, who criticized the anonymous objection and said the refusal to reimburse funds for now hurts residents.

The state’s Department of Administration, which submitted the reimbursement request to the Joint Finance Committee on behalf of the counties and the Elections Commission, last week urged lawmakers to promptly schedule a meeting to address the objection, with Secretary Joel Brennan writing in the Dec. 17 letter that doing so would “give our local partners greater certainty as to when they can expect to receive the funds they are entitled to.”

The Wisconsin Elections Commission, which collects the information from the counties, said Tuesday it hadn't received a final number from Milwaukee County. Administrator Meagan Wolfe added that the commission's costs for helping administer the recount are expected to be less than $20,000, though a final number won't be known until after the staff finalizes the reimbursement process.

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Briana Reilly covers state government and politics for the Cap Times. She joined the staff in 2019, after working at WisPolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter at @briana_reilly.

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