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Siegel gains extra vote over Leinfelder in special La Crosse County sheriff race recount

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The special recount for La Crosse County sheriff is complete, and both candidates gained votes in a process that took about eight hours.

Democrat John Siegel won the race by 175 votes over Republican Fritz Leinfelder. After canvassing the election Monday, both candidates picked up one vote.

Representatives of sheriff candidates, and the local media, watch the start of a La Crosse County canvass of the sheriff’s race.

After Friday’s recount, Siegel’s margina of victory grew by one vote. Leinfelder picked up one extra vote, while Siegel added two.

The new official count for the sheriff’s race is 27,375 votes for Siegel to 27,199 for Leinfelder.

Thirteen wards in La Crosse were recounted at Leinfelder’s request, because of a concern about proper procedures at those voting locations. The Siegel campaign objected to the selective nature of the recount.

As the canvass was about to begin Friday morning, attorney Keith Belzer, representing Siegel, formally objected to the partial recount, generally in areas where college students vote.

Belzer argued that if there’s a recount, then all the votes cast in the county should be counted again. He said the situation is similar to the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin, the case of Trump v. Biden.

He said the case “looked at equal protection arguments when the Trump campaign specifically tried to narrow out votes and recount votes in Milwaukee and Madison because they didn’t like those votes.”

Erik Olsen, an attorney representing Leinfelder, objected to the complaint made from Siegel’s camp.

County clerk Ginny Dankmeyer took note of both arguments, then declared a start to the recount, with the maximum amount of election observers present — backers of both candidates.

“In order to insure that only eligible votes are counted, we are investing in a recount,” Leinfelder told reporters. “The election was very close.”

In the final count, Siegel received 6,628 votes in the 13 disputed wards to 3,948 for Leinfelder.

Incumbent sheriff Jeff Wolf is retiring at the end of the year, after his one term in the position.

The recount happened because the race was decided by less than 1 percent, and state law allows candidates to then request a recount. But, it had to be paid for by the losing candidate, because state-funded recount only happens if the difference is .25 percent or lower. In this case, the difference was .32 percent.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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