Wauwatosa recount, 1st Black alderman elected

A Wauwatosa Common Council race on April 5 ended up tied on election night. Then one provisional ballot tipped the race. On Thursday, April 14, a recount began. Late Thursday, Sean Lowe was declared the winner.

The recount dragged on for more than eight hours as the city counted 10,000 votes in two very close races.

Nine days after the election, Wauwatosa Common Council District 5 candidates were still waiting Thursday.

"Certainly, it’s been an emotional roller coaster, from a tie, to winning by one and then here we are with a recount," said candidate Sean Lowe.

It started with an election night tie of 702 votes each.

"In my 25 years of experience, I’ve never dealt with an actual tie vote," said Steven Braatz, Wauwatosa city clerk.

There was one provisional ballot cast on Election Day, and when the voter brought in the needed document and that was counted last week, it tipped the election for Lowe.

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"I’d be the first-ever African American man to serve on City Council in a 125-year history of Wauwatosa local government, so that is huge," said Lowe.

Then incumbent Rob Gustafson requested the recount.

"It’s Rob’s legal right for a recount, and so I’m hoping that the results remain the same and trust our city’s process," said Lowe.

Inside Wauwatosa City Hall Thursday, poll workers double-checked that the signatures of voters in the poll books equaled the number of votes and ballots. Then they ran ballots through the tabulators.

The city also recounted the more than 10,000 votes on a referendum to shrink the size of Wauwatosa's Common Council. Initial election night results showed voters approving it by five votes.

"It kind of reminds me of Brexit, that a very simple majority can make something happen, and in some ways, I’m glad because I want people to know, yes, your individual, one little vote matters a lot," said Wauwatosa voter Elizabeth Ermenc, who was observing the recount.

This referendum would cut the size of the Common Council from 16 to 12 alderpersons. It would also create term limits for them: two consecutive four-year terms. 

Wauwatosa's council size is larger than the one in Milwaukee, which has 15 members. Aldermen and alderwomen in Milwaukee get paid more than $70,000, while in Wauwatosa, the representatives are paid $5,400.

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