Tabulators in Waukesha County were waiting and ready to begin by 8 a.m. Friday at the courthouse. The recount effort began Thursday and federal law requires it be completed by December 13. The Wisconsin Elections Commission has said it hopes to have the recount finished by 8:00 p.m. on December 12. Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin by about 22,000 in November’s election.
Green Party candidate Jill Stein requested the recount, and raised $3.5 million to pay for it, after a group of computer scientists said Clinton had performed poorly in counties relying on voting machines. Clinton's campaign has publicly backed the effort. As of now, there's no evidence of any errors or tampering with voting machines.
In Waukesha County Friday, the maximum number of tabulators, 24, was quickly reached. They worked sitting at tables, as observers representing various candidates and political parties milled about the room behind them. Speaking to the workers before they began, Waukesha County Clerk Kathleen Novack told them observers have the ability to question a ballot. When that occurs, the ballot is set aside and eventually goes before the Board of Canvassers, where all discussion and decision making about the ballot takes place.
On Friday morning, tabulators began their day by working to tally write-in ballots. Waukesha County officials also began running tests on the county's voting machines, called optical scanners, to make sure they were working without error.
On Thursday night, tabulators did not begin counting ballots until roughly 10:45 p.m. They said that was, in part, because it took a lot of time to sort through absentee ballots.
"We had to sort them, check to see that there were signatures and addresses, and make sure all of that was correct," said tabulator Jim Hoppe. "We had to make sure they were all properly filled out and then count them."
One Waukesha County election official said the absentee ballots take longer to get through than ballots filled out at the polls on Election Day. Workers counting ballots wrapped up around midnight Thursday. Some of the same ones returned by 8:00 a.m. Friday.