Wisconsin Supreme Court Race Too Close To Call
The hard fought race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which got caught up in the battle over the state’s new collective bargaining law, is too close to call:
Justice David Prosser clung to a narrow lead over Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg in the state Supreme Court race early Wednesday, after a hard-fought campaign dominated by political forces and outside interest groups.
But even with 99% of the vote counted, fewer than 600 votes – about 0.04% of ballots – separated the candidates. And The Associated Press said early Wednesday that the race was too close to call and that it would take hours or most of the day to get a final tally.
That close margin had political insiders from both sides talking about the possibility of a recount, which Wisconsin has avoided in statewide races in recent decades. Any recount could be followed by lawsuits – litigation that potentially would be decided by the high court.
The razor-thin result was the latest twist in Wisconsin’s ongoing political turmoil. The state has drawn the attention of the nation in recent weeks because of the fight over a controversial law sharply restricting public employee unions, which caused massive weeks-long protests in the Capitol, a boycott of the Senate by Democrats and attempts to recall senators from both parties.
Interest groups on both sides had portrayed the election as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda and particularly on the collective bargaining law. Conservatives backed Prosser, and liberals supported Kloppenburg, even though the candidates themselves insisted they were politically neutral.
Either candidate can request a recount once the votes have been officially canvassed. If the margin between the candidates is less than 0.5% – as it is likely to be in this race – the state charges nothing to conduct the recount. If the margin is between 0.5% and 2%, the candidate asking for the recount must pay $5 per ward.
As unseemly as the idea of judicial elections are, the idea of a recount in such an election that eventually ends up in court itself just adds another level of unseemliness to the whole affair. One would hope that one side would concede after the votes are counted rather than dragging this out, but I suppose there isn’t much hope of that.
Update: Counting has resumed this morning, and Kloppenburg has erased Prosser’s lead and overtaken him:
As of 9:30 this morning, the Associated Press had results for all but 10 of the state’s 3,630 precincts and Kloppenburg had taken a 140 vote lead after Prosser had lead most of the night by less than 1,000 votes.
At this rate, we could end up with a race decided by 100 votes or less.
Also, here’s a link to the AP’s election results, which now show Kloppenburg ahead by about 350 votes
Update # 2: With a 204 vote margin and a recount certain, Kloppenburg has claimed victory.