Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The end!

The recount in Winnebago county ended at about 3:00 this afternoon. I'm free!! Unfortunately, Jess didn't win, but the margin went from 182 to around 150. Randy will be reminded of that the next time we are down in Madison to talk to our legislators. I actually can't wait to try to make him toe the line. It could be fun.

Here is a picture of our tireless ballot box stuffer, Joe, putting the very last ballot into the voting machine:

Everyone cheered!!

Here's Joe telling the machine that the election is finished. It is running the final totals tape of the votes cast on the machine.

Here's a picture of the Democratic crew who was there for the whole thing:

Pictured left to right are: Attorney Brian, Paulette, Summer, Kory, me, Brandon, and Ian.

Not pictured are Paula and Amanda. We found out Paula is a fellow knitter (so is our city clerk, Pam). Paula sent me yarn and felted acorns that I received in the mail today. I'll put a picture of all of it on here soon. Thanks so much, Paula. We missed you today! Amanda has been sick, so she was not there for the last few days. We missed you as well, Amanda.

I just want to say thanks for coming here to help you guys. You are the best!! I'll miss those of you who don't live in Oshkosh. We will be visiting most of you the next time we come down to the capital.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Recount captivity day 6

Yippee, we probably only have one more day of recounting left. Tomorrow we tackle the town of Algoma and the city of Omro. The rest is finished.

The atmosphere is definately becoming more partisan as the recount goes on. Some of the Republicans are becoming kind of insufferable in their annoying qualities. I think it's kind of rude to start trying to tell the county clerk how to do her job and telling the poor guy who's feeding ballots through a balky optical scan reader to do it faster. Who does he think he is?

In a nutshell, here's how a recount of a district usually goes down:

Reconcile tag numbers on zip ties of bags containing ballots with paper record.

Open bags and start to sort ballots to check for clerk signature on absentee ballots and poll inspector signatures on polling place ballots. Sort out ones without signatures or anything else weird on them.

Open boxes containing absentee ballot envelopes and count and check for all signatures. Sort out ones without signatures.

Get lawyers involved in fighting about ballots and envelopes that are not signed correctly, etc.
This step might take a while and involve phone calls to the Government Accountability Board in Madison.

When everything above is sorted out, go through piles of ballots with observers from each side telling canvass members which ballots they would like to be hand counted because of weird stuff on them.

Run ballots through machine to count them, with observers from both sides watching.

While this is going on, count numbers of votes on touch screen voting machine tapes. If there is a problem, get lawyers involved again to fight some more.

Hand count ballots that cannot be run through machine.

Make sure numbers match up with what happened on election night. Sometimes more disagreements with lawyers present will happen here.

Start over with another district.

Just imagine being one of the people on the canvass board who suddenly have 20 or more supervisors. Ugh. I give those folks a lot of credit for hanging in there. We have made friends with a lot of them and even try to help them, without touching any of the election materials, of course. That's the most frustrating part. I really want to help some of them, but I can't just hand them a poll book or pile of ballots. It's almost embarrassing in a way.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Recount captivity day 5

The best part about today is...I don't have to count any ballots tomorrow!! We start again on Monday. We finished the city of Oshkosh today and Monday we do the town of Algoma.

Today was very tense at times. In one of the wards, they were off by 100 ballots. They hauled yet another chairperson of a polling place into the firing squad and questioned her for at least a couple of hours. In the end, someone (and they're not telling who) wrote down the wrong number on one of the sheets they were keeping track on. They were never off by 100 ballots at all. I felt a little sorry for the woman they pulled in there. However, the rest of her stuff was kind of in a mess also. They also had to get the city's attorney in there as well, which was kind of a chore since the guy doesn't know how to use a cellphone.

Since a lot of the Republican campaign people were deer hunting, they had called in reinforcements to the ballot counting for their side. Unfortunately, one of the reinforcements was Gregg Underheim. Ugh. I got stuck sitting with him for at least an hour watching them feed ballots into a machine. Not fun. He was describing to me how he got tennis elbow in college playing foosball.

Paulette and the rest of our people were getting a kick out of watching the Repubs and their Blackberrys. When one of the guys phone rang this afternoon it was just really funny the way he whipped his phone out of the holster on his belt, kind of like the way they pull their guns out of a holster in those wild west movies.

At one other point in the afternoon, there was some question on what it said on two absentee envelopes. To some of the canvassers, it looked like it said "deceased" which was then crossed out. This of course started a whole bunch of funny jokes. The county clerk looked at it and said maybe the guy was Jesus. When one of us said maybe it was entered in error, one of the older ladies who was counting ballots wanted to know if his name was entered or interred, which made me almost fall off my chair laughing.

We'll see what kind of a mess the town of Algoma is in. Hopefully they have stuff straightened out since the last presidential election when people were in line until midnight to cast their ballot.

I have gotten pretty much knitting done this week while watching ballots run through the machine.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Recount captivity day 4

I asked to be fired from the recount today so that I could go back to my nice quiet job. Ha ha. I guess I'm in it until we are done. We have had more drama today. One of the polling place chairs was hauled in and questioned extensively by 3 lawyers about the ballots. It was ugly. That district is like the district from hell. After she left, the touch screen voting machine tape, which recorded only 5 votes for the final total, was found to be messed up. There were actually supposed to be only 4 votes. I think. It's confusing. The machine company is supposed to be on the speaker phone tomorrow. That should show the woman who prematurely celebrated that the TSX tape only had a few votes on it should show caution next time--I think she angered the recount gods.

In another district 11 unopened absentee ballot envelopes were found amongst the opened ones. They were opened and the majority of the votes were for our girl Jess.

Today's Republican lurkers included state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald again and Sen. Glenn Grothman. Ick. It's a good thing I didn't recognize Grothman while he was there or it would have taken everything in my being to keep me from kicking him in the shins. We are getting along okay with the Republican recount watchers. Believe it or not, we have discussed no politics in the whole 4 days. It's really odd that such political people can go that long without discussing politics with each other. Well, I did talk about lit drop attire with Nate Nelson, but that's as political as it got.

As I predicted yesterday, the larger room and the extremely cold temperatures in the room in the basement of the courthouse seemed to have cooled down the tempers a little. I think the coldness in temperature down there is becoming a bonding experience. When Mark Harris, the county executive came down to see how it was going on his way out for the day, I asked him jokingly if the county had forgotten to pay the WPS bill. He laughed at me.

More fun will be had tomorrow between 9AM and 5PM. Yippee. We are stopping for doughnuts on the way there. Maybe the sugar rush will help.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Recount captivity day 3

I am still in recount captivity. We got 3 districts done today. Woo hoo.

The strain is starting to show on people. Some of the observers (and I am embarrassed to say it is some from my party) are being rude to some of the canvassers, about 75% whom are older people. I can't tolerate that crap and tomorrow I may have to say something to them about cooling it since I have to still live in this county. Since I am the vice chair of the county Dem party, I think it reflects badly on us. Sigh. Why can't people be nice to each other without having to be reminded?

We did do a lot of the campus wards today. And, as I expected, there were problems with some of the ballots there, but in a pleasant surprise, not as many as I thought there would be. The problems there were with absentee ballots (which is where the problems were mostly) showed that it was probably a little more hectic at those polling places than others. It was good for the Dem side that lots of young people voted and is a hopeful sign to me that perhaps these young people maybe care enough about our country to get out there and try to make it better. Or maybe I have been sitting in recount-land too long.

We were in a different, really small conference room today. I don't know if it was the smallness of the room or what, but it was sort of a like a powder keg for a while in there. The voting machine for us to run the ballots that had been all gone through was in the hall. I volunteered to go out there and watch the mindless ballot running for all afternoon. I did have a good time with the city clerk and one of the poll workers from Paulette's polling place that she works at. We were having such a good time that the Dem lawyer came out and told us to keep it down.

Tomorrow we are going to be back in the courthouse basement, where the room is really large. I think we are going to be there the rest of the time. It was cold down there, but people were more civil to each other there. Maybe the room temperature was helping them keep cool (pun intended).

This experience has inspired me to sign up to be a pollworker. Don't get me wrong--I appreciate everyone who is currently a pollworker. However, the thought that we are entrusting our electoral process to all those old people frankly scares me. The city clerk said she would like to use electronic poll lists but fears that half of her pollworkers would quit because they have enough trouble with the technology right now without adding more. I challenge all of the younger people who are reading this to get off your butt and take vacation or whatever on election day to work at the polls. Call your city clerk and volunteer! As a member of the classified staff who works for the state of Wisconsin at UW Oshkosh, I can work at the polls without using vacation because we negotiated that with the state in our union contract. I wish others would take Paulette's and my lead and help out. Maybe if we all did we wouldn't have such problems with mistakes that have been made at polling places.

I did manage to get a lot of knitting done while I was watching the ballots run through the optical scan machine. I even made friends with some of the Republicans who are there.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Recount, day 2

The day dawned early, at 8:30AM in the Winnebago County Courthouse. My feet are feeling the strain-they are most definately not "gelling" as in the commercial for the gel shoe inserts. I am still not bored. Today was interesting. We from both sides of the campaign and the lawyers from both sides today went back and forth (for over 2 hours) over an absentee ballot that was not opened. A mistake was made at the polling place. The county clerk made a phone call to the almost disenfranchised voter. At this point, no one had any clue as to how this person had voted. The tension mounted. When the ballot was finally opened, the voter had written in the libertarian candidate for the 18th Senate District, which got a really good laugh from everyone. Hey, every vote counts. Just apparently not for us in this instance.

So far today (well, I left at 5:45 PM and there were still two wards that needed to be run through the machine), Jess was up 8 votes and Randy was only up by I think 4. At least we're not losing votes. It's concerning to me that there was also a person who managed to get a ballot to vote early at city hall who was not registered to vote. How did that happen? The unopened envelope was discovered by one of the poll workers who was going through the absentee envelopes which have to be matched to ballots. The unregistered ballot was not opened or counted.

At one point Paulette looked towards the back of the room and saw one of the evil Fitzgerald brothers:

The canvassers are also having real fun untangling and counting the tapes from the electronic voting machines. This was the scene at one point today:

The caption on this picture should be, "Are we having fun yet?"
We will have managed to get through 6 wards today, ending with ward 10. Tomorrow we start the University wards, which should be really interesting. I feel a long day with a lot of ballot challenges ahead. I so need to be gelling it's not funny. I don't think that even big fat pillows tied to my feet would help. This is a real foot killer. At least the room today wasn't hot--in fact, it was pretty cold in there. Some people were wearing gloves and coats. Tomorrow we are in the Orrin King administration building. Friday and Saturday we are back in the courthouse.
I am also not looking forward to the town of Algoma votes. Ugh. With their polling place problems last presidential election, it could be real fun (not).
On the knitting front, I got the back of my sweater done today and started the left front. Paulette and I invited the city clerk to knit with us on Wednesday nights at Starbucks, which she is considering. If this keeps up we'll have all the public employees in the county knitting there.
It's getting to bedtime now.....my fluffy featherbed is calling me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tales from a recount: Day 1

Well, the recount isn't as boring (well, so far) as I thought it might be. It actually has been kind of interesting. Our candidate, Jess King has gained 2 votes in Fond du Lac county, 7 votes in Winnebago county and lost 2 votes in Dodge county. Her opponent has gained 2 votes in Winnebago county. All in all, a good day. Dodge county is finished with their recount. Good. We finished 2 of about 33 wards in Oshkosh today.

It was hot and crowded in the room where the recount was being held today. Here are some pictures from it:

Here is Paulette watching as the ballots that have been inspected and approved by everyone are run through the OSX machine. We have been really picky about the ballots as we are inspecting them. I think it might be helping and I fully intend to keep on being a picky person while I am there watching the process.

I told you it was crowded. In the lower picture above, they are going through the absentee ballot applications and matching each application to an envelope. There was one envelope missing. It came out okay in the end. We also had a couple of ballots that we had marked as exhibits. One of them was torn (it was for Jessica and was allowed in the end) and the other was not properly signed by the person working in city hall. The county clerk had to call the GAB in Madison to find out what we should do with this ballot, since the attorney on our side had challenged it. Unfortunately, it was allowed (darn, it was a a vote for Hopper).
I will report more every day. We are working from 8:30AM to 5PM at the courthouse. We will most likely be working on Saturday also. If it takes this long for all the wards, we are screwed since the GAB wants the recount done by December 1.
On the knitting front, I have gotten a bunch done on my sweater this evening. Knit night is tomorrow night. Hooray!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Finally, a quiet weekend

We are having a lovely weekend. We met Paulette's sister Cheryl in Fond du Lac for breakfast. We then went to The Knitting Room, where I bought this:

The top yarn is Plymouth Happy Feet and the bottom stuff is Adriafil Knitcol, in a lovely Christmas-sy colorway. The Knitcol is a DK weight in superwash merino. It's lovely. I bought 4 balls. Don't know if it's destined to be socks or a scarf.

I also bought some lovely copper buttons for my sweater, which is coming along nicely. Here's the progress on the back:

Not bad for only 8 days of knitting!

Here's a picture of Ciara from our knitting group who we are teaching to knit. She made her first hat!

She is so proud of her new hat. We all applauded when she took it off the needles on Wednesday night.

Tomorrow holds more knitting and probably cleaning. I am switching my summer and winter clothes this evening as well as knitting on my sweater.
I don't know what I'll do on Monday--probably more knitting!
Tuesday the evil recount starts for our friend Jessica. After our training for the recount in Madison on Thursday, we went to visit friends who work in the state capital. They told us that watching a recount is like watching paint dry. They also thanked us for taking one for the team. Sigh. That doesn't give me much hope that this is going to be interesting. We'll see what happens.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Whoa, it's been a long time since I put anything on here. Election season takes up a lot of time, kind of like a big black hole.

Squirrel update: Mr. Squirrel seems to have left the building. Apparently he left on his own recognizance when I left the back door open for a couple of hours the day after he arrived. But will he come back?

Knitting updates:

I started a new project on Friday. I am knitting the Penny Straker "Jennifer" cardigan, as pictured below. I have about 9 inches done so far, with 4 to go before I start the raglan part.

This will be the back of the cardigan. I love the yarn. It's Jamieson's shetland in sport weight. The computer image doesn't give you a sense of the complexity of the color in the yarn. It looks way different than it did in the skein--in a good way!
I have about a foot of the autumn leaves scarf done. I was getting tired of it. I will finish it soon.

I also have been shopping since the election has been over. Paulette and I went to Iris and I found this:

It's Malabrigo laceweight in the color, Forest. I was going to make a shawl with it, but now I think I may make the pullover lace sweater in the book, "A gathering of lace".

We also went to The Sow's Ear in Verona after a political action committee meeting. I bought this yarn there:

Okay, I know, I need more laceweight yarn like I need a hole in the head, but.... I decided that I needed a dark lace yarn to make a shawl for fall/winter. This burgundy Misti Alpaca lace fits the bill.

Speaking of elections, yippee, most of my candidates won! My friend, Jess King, lost her election to the state senate 18th district by 181 votes. She's asking for a recount. Paulette and I have been asked to help with observing the recount. Training is this Thursday. I suppose the recount will start soon. Sigh. Just when I thought I would get my life back. I guess the furnace will have to wait. I mean, it still works and everything. And then some. No one gets cold when they are at our house!
Here are some election day pictures of some of us standing on a corner in Oshkosh--at 7:15 AM!! Yes, election day started early here. I was up at 5 AM and didn't get to bed until 1:30AM.

And this is the small crowd. We had an enormous crowd on Tuesday at evening drive time on the Walgreen's corner on Koeller St. It was so much fun and we got more beeps and cries of "Obama" than people yelling bad stuff at us. It made up for the racial epithets that we put up with being yelled at us from a car of young people the day before. It was disturbing that they were young people. We also had "socialist" yelled at us on Monday. After that we went to another corner where a nice guy in a radio station truck pulled into the parking lot behind us and gave us Melty Bars and told us to keep up the good work.
I am still really tired from all the running around for a month. My feet still hurt a little. But I'm happy. Well, mostly. Now I had to come back to work--blech. But on the bright side, there are only 2 1/2 weeks until Thanksgiving!