Unofficially, former state Sen. John Lehman unseated Sen. Van Wanggaard in the recall election for the 21st Senate District race.
Final, but-yet-to-be certified, election results show Lehman with a 1 percent lead over Wanggaard: 49.7 percent to 48.63 percent of the vote. A Democratic win means the state Senate would be under Democratic control. But there’s an asterisk at the end of these vote totals since hundreds of absentee ballots haven’t been counted, and the election hasn't been certified.
At midnight, Wanggaard said he felt the race was too close to call. As of Wednesday morning, he had not conceded the race. He issued a statement just before noon saying that while he is being urged to demand an immediate recount, he's going to wait until after the county completes their board of canvass.
Over 70,000 people voted yesterday in a historic election. We know that there are a number of outstanding absentee ballots, voting irregularities, and that there were problems across the county in the unofficial tally of ballots. People across the state and country have asked that I immediately ask for a recount. However, we all know that the best decisions are made when well-rested and after consideration of all options. We will closely monitor the canvass of votes with legal representation. We will evaluate our options regarding recounts following the official count of ballots.
A representative with Wanggaard's campaign would not comment further on the reference to "voting irregularities."
Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen said all election results are unofficial until the county completes its Board of Review, which can't take place until each community conducts their own. But before any of that happens, Christensen and her deputies are busy verifying by hand the results transmitted last night.
"It takes all day," she noted. "And the municipalities have until 4 pm today to get their ballots and tapes here to the county."
There's also the question of absentee ballots. Christensen said there are 581 outstanding absentee ballots and seven provisional ballots yet to be counted and/or received in each community. Voters had to have their absentee ballot postmarked by June 5 and their municipal clerks have to receive them by 4 pm Friday to count.
Christensen said there's no telling how many of those will come in if she uses even the May 8 primary as a benchmark.
"We had 600 or 650 at that time, and only 30 or 40 came made it back in time to be counted," she added. "Really, it's anyone's guess as to how many might come in by Friday."
As for reports that the clerk's office won't declare a winner, Christensen reminds residents that it's not the clerk's job to declare a winner with unofficial results.
Since the margin of difference is more than one-half of one percent, Wanggaard would have to pay for a recount if he requests one. He has three days after the county finishes its Board of Canvass to make that decision.
Meanwhile, Lehman declared victory just before 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, before the unofficial vote totals were counted because he had poll watchers in the precincts.
Brad Wojciechowski, Communications Director for Lehman’s campaign said Lehman won the race by 779 votes.
“We have a new majority after the voters in the 21st District decided to restore checks and balances in our state government,” he said. “Majority leader Mark Miller will be willing to talk to the governor and assembly Republicans at any time in a responsible manner and not just to play it out for the media.”