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Bomhack takes lead in recount
MONROE - Ernie Wittwer appears to have lost his advantage in the 17th Senate district Democratic primary recount after Green County certified its election results despite 110 missing ballots.

Wittwer lost 40 votes from Monroe and his opponent Pat Bomhack lost 12 in the recount. Votes for Wittwer in Monroe fell from 523 to 483 in the recount, while Bomhack went from 337 votes to 325.

The 28 votes Bomhack picked up in Monroe in the recount could swing the election in his favor, though Juneau and Richland counties have yet to finish their recounts. Bomhack called for the recount Friday after county canvasses from nine counties showed Wittwer ahead by just seven votes, 3,847 votes to 3,840.

Wittwer lost two additional votes from Green County in the recount, bringing his new total in the county to 645 votes to Bomhack's 446, a difference of 199 votes. Wittwer originally had 687 votes in Green County to Bomhack's 458, a difference of 229 votes.

At the Green County Board of Canvass meeting Wednesday the board voted 2-1 in favor of finalizing the results of the recount, two days after county officials discovered 110 ballots were missing. The lone dissenter on the board, Barbara Woodriff, a representative of the Democratic Party in Green County, said she wanted to use the original Aug. 12 vote totals because she believed there was enough corroborating data from three different sources: the poll machine, hand counts and computer logs.

"I think this will seriously disenfranchise voters, and that is why I dissent so vigorously," Woodriff said.

Green County Clerk Michael Doyle, who chairs the board, and Republican Party representative Rolland Karlen both sided with the Government Accountability Board's advice that the recount numbers be used.

"We have to certify with the ballots that we had at the time of the recount," Doyle said. "We have an obligation to not guess what happened to those 110 ballots."

Wittwer was present at the meeting and said he disagreed with the board's decision to go with the recount numbers. He said he hopes he can still pull through and win the election.

"It doesn't feel like much of a win," Wittwer said. "It is certainly not a win for my district, the way this was handled."

Wittwer said he will consult with an attorney and that there could be potential litigation brought forth in the future.

A candidate can file an appeal of the recount in court within five days of the GAB's determination, according to published reports. Recount results will not be certified until those five days pass or until the court challenge concludes.

After certifying the recount results, members of the county's canvassing board sealed all of the ballots into bags in front of witnesses Wednesday. The county's recount was done by hand for the towns of Cadiz, Clarno, Jordan and Monroe, and the Village of Browntown. The city of Monroe's ballots were recounted by machine.

Woodriff said it is possible that the missing ballots were put underneath a pile of unused ballots that were then relayed to the county clerk's office to be disposed of. Doyle said he brought the box of unused ballots to the maintenance room at the historic courthouse to be disposed of on Wednesday, Aug. 20. Doyle was unsure when the ballots were disposed of.

Woodriff said it is plausible that an unknown man who had been lingering around city hall on Aug. 12 could have taken the 110 ballots. Employees at city hall could not describe the man in any detail, but he was apparently inquiring about the 17th Senate district Democratic primary. The man was given the race's results and was reportedly in close proximity to a stack of ballots cast on election night.

The Monroe Police Department searched city hall Tuesday night, but none of the missing ballots were found.

City of Monroe Administrator Phil Rath and City Clerk Carol Stamm both said they will be implementing new protocol at the city poll for future elections. Stamm has said previously that she and the poll workers followed all election protocols, but they will now add extra precautions.

"We will go above and beyond what the law requires," Stamm said.

Stamm said in future elections unused ballots will be collected by poll workers and placed in the boxes they were delivered in and sealed before the vote tabulating machine is opened. She also intends to request that police be present at the door of the polling room on election days to ensure ballots do not leave the room.

-The Associated Press contributed to this story.