Home Wisconsin Genia Stevens to retain Rock County Board seat after judge dismisses recount...

Genia Stevens to retain Rock County Board seat after judge dismisses recount appeal

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Rock County Supervisor Genia Stevens will retain her seat on the County Board after a judge dismissed an appeal of a recount that verified her win by just two votes.

“I’m happy to see that the judge agreed that you can’t disenfranchise the voter,” said Genia Stevens, District 13 supervisor for the Rock County Board after a legal battle to maintain her electoral win.

On May 22, Stevens arrived at the Rock County Circuit Court, 51 S. Main St., Janesville, after receiving a challenge on the legitimacy of absentee ballots from her opponent Tammy Gonfiantini. The case, Tammy Gonfiantini vs. Rock County Board of Canvassers, looked to appeal the decision to uphold Stevens’ win after questioning the validity of the few key votes that led to her electoral victory.

In the initial election back in April, Stevens came out on top in the election by a margin of three votes. Due to a narrow margin, Gonfiantini requested for a recount, challenging the validity of four ballots. After the recount was over, Stevens maintained a lead of two votes.

“Tammy had the right to ask for a recount. During the recount, she had an attorney representing her and a team of people who were helping her through the challenges. My wife and I, it was just us,” Stevens said. “I knew I could have an attorney, but I didn’t really feel like I needed an attorney because I trust the process. I didn’t feel like I had done anything wrong.”

Stevens held firm trust in the system to ensure the correct processes happened in the recount but was represented by an attorney provided by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin through an in-kind donation for the appeal hearing. Though she was not the defendant in the proceeding, Stevens was an intervener, a party who wants to participate in a proceeding because they believe its outcome may affect their rights, in the case.

She calls the case important for fair elections to prevent the disenfranchisement of voters.

Of the four ballots called into question, one was an absentee ballot cast by Stevens’ wife because Stevens signed as the witness — which she said she didn’t know she is not allowed to do as an elected official.

Two others did not receive signatures from the County Clerk. An additional absentee ballot was challenged for a felon currently serving time in prison that had their voting rights restored; the felon’s ballot was allowed. 

Gonfiantini argued that the lack of signatures on the ballots should disqualify those ballots because of Wisconsin laws requiring directory instructions for the County Clerk.

No law exists making it mandatory for a county clerk to sign ballots or require ballots to be disqualified due to lack of initials. The current laws only outline what actions a county clerk should take in the process of absentee ballots and measures for consideration when a recount is called.

The case spanned roughly 45 minutes where Judge Jeffery Kuglistch went through the arguments made by Gonfiantini and her lawyer.

Legislature sighted by Gonfiantini looked at Chapter 5 on general provisions of elections, ballots and voting systems; Chapter 6 on elections, registration, voting, absentee voting and challenging electors; Chapter 7 on election officials, boards, selection and duties and canvassing; and Chapter 9 on post-election actions and direct legislation.

Additionally, a case for logic was argued on for applicability of a ruling through the Wisconsin Supreme court from 1966, Grandinjan v. Boho, on a recount. The case disqualified ballots for a similar issue with old Wisconsin Statutes outlining directory requirements of municipal clerks to sign off on absentee ballots to endure validity. Judge Kuglistch did not find the case’s ruling and old statues applicable to this case.

Gonfiantini also alleged the possibility of fraud, which the judge found no grounds for.

The case was ultimately dismissed.

“It’s not right for a voter, that has done everything right, then to have his or her vote disenfranchised because the clerk forgot to put the signature,” said Judge Kuglitsch in the hearing.

With the case now behind her, Stevens says she is ready to get back to work to serve Rock County.

Stevens was first appointed to the County Board in March 2021, and won election to a full term in the spring of 2022. She also serves on the Beloit City Council.