La Crosse County Sheriff’s recount: John Siegel remains winner

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Envelope after envelope, ballot after ballot, and the winner remains the same. Democrat John Siegel will be the next Sheriff of La Crosse County.

Republican Fritz Leinfelder lost to Siegel by 175 votes. Earlier this week, Leinfelder filed a petition for a recount.

“Candidate who lost the election by less than 1% has the right to ask for a recount,” said Leinfelder’s attorney Erik Olsen.

Leinfelder lost by 0.32% of the votes. His campaign asked for a recount of 13 of the 26 wards in La Crosse County. Leinfelder’s campaign felt voter turnout was extremely high in those wards.

“Those are wards where a lot more people voted than were previously registered prior to the election,” Olsen said.

One of the reasons voter turnout can be higher than usual is because of same-day registration. Siegel’s attorney Keith Belzer filed an objection to only recounting some of the wards.

“We believe that this sort of a recount under recent case law is unconstitutional,” Belzer said, citing the Wisconsin Supreme Court case Trump v. Biden.

Belzer says counting only some of the wards is a violation of the Equal Protections Clause. Leinfelder’s attorney disagrees.

“Everybody has limited funds and then they have to look at the wards where, for whatever reason, they believe the technical deficiencies may have occurred,” said Olsen.

Leinfleder paid more than $6,000 for the recount. Multiple observers from both parties arrived to watch the process. When the recount started, tensions were high over disagreements about pictures.

“We wanted to take pictures primarily of the lists of late registrations because we had asked for those. That looked like it was going to be denied. So, it looked like that might be our only avenue to get those. It would be trying to take the pictures,” said Olsen.

“The sort of intensity of the photo taking was maybe concerning only because it was causing the workers, I think, to work more slowly and or be distracting,” said Belzer.

La Crosse County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer told both parties she would provide hard copies of the late registrations. When the recount was over, Siegel gained two votes. Leinfelder gained one — not nearly enough to overcome his 175 vote deficit. Still, Leinfelder thanked election staff for their work but did not concede.

“We wanted to make sure we had a full and accurate count. We’re going to continue through this process, through our conditional right to make any objections from here on out,” said Leinfelder.

Leinfelder has until tomorrow to object to the results of the recount. If he does not object, La Crosse County Clerk Dankmeyer can move forward with certifying those results.