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For Want of a Nail: Missing Seals Raise Questions in Wisconsin

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Hammer_nails_smithsonian.jpg

[Image courtesy of McGill University]

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Continuing on on our theme of "there is no small stuff" ... from the Mt. Pleasant (WI) Patch:

Officials with Republican Van Wanggaard's campaign Thursday questioned why a number of bags containing ballots from the City of Racine were opened and then "double-bagged," or placed in a second bag.

Under Wisconsin's election procedures, after the polls close, election workers remove the voted ballots and place them into a secured container or bag. The bag is secured using a tamper-evident numbered seal, according to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

Ballot bags are supposed to have all potential openings secured in such a manner that no ballot may be removed, nor any ballot added, without visible interference or damage to that ballot container.

But Racine County Clerk Wendy Christiansen said that bags in nine of the 36 polling places in Racine in the June 5 recall election were found double-bagged.

Several chief polling inspectors, who were responsible for sealing those bags, were questioned by Wanggaard campaign officials as part of the recount process now under way at the Racine County Courthouse.

Officials with Wanggaard's campaign asked Celeste Walker, who was the chief polling inspector at the King Center, why the initial bag hadn't been sealed. Walker explained that she did the taping and sealing process improperly the night of the election and it wouldn't seal.

"I have done it properly in prior elections," she said. "This time my training failed me. I will ask for a personal demonstration in the next election so as not to cause the city clerk any undue distress."

Note that this State Senate vote was the one that changed control of the State Senate back to the Democrats - at least until November. Any questions about the conduct of the election are almost certain to gain traction in the Badger State's already highly charged political environment.

I can't really blame the poll workers involved; the pressure in those polling places must have been intense and that must have been a factor in the sealing difficulties. This story is also a useful reminder to everyone in the field that the interplay of chain of custody requirements and a largely volunteer workforce requires that sealing procedures and products be straightforward and simple - and to the extent possible, pressure-proof.

In the meantime, tensions remain high in Wisconsin and neither side wants to admit defeat. Unfortunately, this issue from Racine means that for the time being neither side has to do so - for the want of a seal.

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