Sturgeon Bay voter given wrong ballot in close city council race

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STURGEON BAY, Wis. An extremely close city council race in Sturgeon Bay is going to be recounted after one voter found a problem.

"Such an unfortunate situation, and I totally agree that there was a mistake made,” said Sturgeon Bay City Clerk Stephanie Reinhardt.

After casting a vote on Tuesday, one Sturgeon Bay voter came back and told Reinhardt he may have voted in the wrong district. After looking into the problem, the city clerk found the man was handed the ballot for the wrong district.

On Tuesday, Sturgeon Bay District 7 Alderwoman Laurel Hauser ran for re-election but was defeated by opponent Kirsten McFarlin-Reeths by a mere three votes. Hauser received 245 votes to McFarlin-Reeths' 248.

Reinhardt says the concerned voter who approached her did end up voting in the District 7 city council race. After examining a map, it was clear the voter actually lived in district 6, a district with no aldermanic race on the ballot. Still, his vote was counted.

"Voting rights were not taken away by any means. He was able to vote for every office he should have. Unfortunately, in this case there was that other race on the ballot for the contested aldermanic race," Reinhardt explained.

Reinhardt brought the issue to the Wisconsin Elections Commission to find out why that voter's name was in the wrong poll book.

"With WisVote there is a pin that depicts where a voter lives and which district they're in, and that pin was right on the border, it was in the wrong place," said Reinhardt.

Reinhardt says no other voters were affected and the issue has been fixed. Still, she's shocked to see such an odd discrepancy.

"In all honesty, it’s probably pretty rare that it happens on a boundary, in a hotly contested race, and the voter looked into it,” she adds.

Due to the close race, and the issue of the wrong ballot, both District 7 candidates decided it's best to do a recount.

"I owe it to the people who supported me -- people who supported me financially and who worked on my campaign -- and so I decided that it was part of the democratic process to have a recount done," said Alderwoman Hauser.

“To ease the minds in both districts and not have this ever be an issue moving forward, I feel this recount is needed, and it's also called 'civility,’” McFarlin-Reeths said.

Reinhardt says to try and even the votes from the one wrong ballot, the canvassing board will randomly pull out one ballot during the recount.

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