Republican recount observers are raising a red flag over votes cast by residents who registered on election day after pages of missing signatures from same-day voters have been discovered throughout the City of Racine.
When someone registers to vote on the day of the election, poll workers take the completed registration form and create an entry in the poll book and then duplicate it in a second poll book.
The voter is required to sign their entry in the same book other voters sign their entry in order to cast a ballot — and it's those signatures that are missing in some wards in the June 5 recall election.
It's not known how many signatures are missing, but Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen said there are entire pages of missing signatures in wards throughout the city.
While some of the missing signatures were found on pages other than where they should have been, it is unclear exactly how many have been discovered elsewhere. It's also unknown why some signatures appear on pages separate from their entries on the poll books.
The missing signatures were noticed on the fifth day of the recount for the historic recall election in the 21st Senate District. Democrat John Lehman defeated Republican Van Wanggaard by 834 votes on June 5 and Wanggaard asked for a recount on June 15.
Justin Phillips, a spokesman for Wanggaard's campaign, said the significant number of same day registrations missing signatures raises more than a red flag.
"If there's one on a page, that's a red flag," he said. "But when nine out of 10 entries is missing a signature, that draws more questions."
As for how many have reported, Phillips said there may be 100 in one ward alone and they are looking into that possibility. He said he is uncertain what the campaign will do about the problem.
"We have not determined a course of action yet," Phillips said. "We are exploring all avenues."
Even though those voters didn't sign the poll books, it appears their votes still will be counted.
"Missing voter signatures on poll books, whether by same day registrants or other voters, are administrative errors and do not invalidate ballots," said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.
"Drawing down or invalidating ballots based on the failure to require a signature would disenfranchise a voter due to an election official’s error," he added.
Christensen said her office is following the ruling from the GAB, which oversees elections in Wisconsin.
There have been instances of individual signatures missing from other municipalities in the 21st District — typically one on a page followed by several pages of correct entries, she added.
"What we've found now are whole pages of vacant signatures from wards in the city," Christensen stated.
After the pages were discovered, a brief conference took place with Republicans asking for clerks to provide the number of missing signatures from each ward, but Christensen said that wasn't part of the recount process within the limited time frame. The recount has to be complete by the end of the day July 2.
Randy Nash, a representative with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said in that case, he wants the same information from all over the district. Christensen also denied that request, pointing again to the instruction from the GAB regarding the votes counting despite the missing signature.
Instead, Republican observers will be able to keep track as the tabulators go through the poll books. Christensen instructed workers to work at a slower pace so observers could keep a running total of any missing signatures.
Nash said he just wants the process to stay consistent with that used during the state Supreme Court recount in April, in which votes were counted even if there were missing signatures.
Christensen said she trained more than 500 poll workers around the county in February about how to fill out the poll books for same day registrations, and plans to talk to municipal clerks before the Republican U.S. Senate primary in August. With the November presidential election potentially as busy as the recall, she agreed a refresher training might be in order.
"I will talk to the clerks to remind them about the signatures and to make sure poll workers are trained in this procedure," she said. "I would also suggest that workers make a note in the poll books for anyone who refuses to sign so we're sure that person wasn't issued a voter number and a ballot."