The Associated Press might have blown a call in Wisconsin on Tuesday night

August 13

With all of the precincts reporting in the Republican primary for Wisconsin's 6th congressional district, it appears that state Sen. Glenn Grothman might have won. Or, at least, he leads by just over 200 votes in a result that will lead to a recount. But here's the thing: He's already declared victory and at least one competitor conceded defeat -- almost certainly thanks to a very early and very risky call by the Associated Press -- a call that AP has since apparently rescinded.

Timelapsev2

Polls in the state closed at 8 p.m. local time, and returns began to trickle in. We pieced together the rest of the night using a series of tweets that tracked the vote totals as they came in.

Before 10:30 p.m. Central or so, there was a consistent pattern. Twitter user S. Dwight Miller was tweeting returns as they came in to Grothman, and they didn't change a lot. Grothman led state Sen. Joe Leibham (and, for a while, state Rep. Duey Stroebel, who was in second place for a time) by several thousand votes.

At a little before 11, the Associated Press made its call. It struck Dave Wasserman of Cook Political Report as a little premature.

The issue was that the city of Sheboygan had still mostly not been counted. Leibham's state Senate district overlaps with part of the city -- as does Grothman's. At the time the AP made its call, votes from the city largely hadn't come in. When they did -- shortly after the AP's call -- Leibham started gaining ground quickly.

You can see the sudden drop in the margin of victory on this graph. (Note that the horizontal axis is not to scale.)

Margin

Charles Franklin of Pollster.com made a graph in real-time, showing vote margins by county. The several thousand votes that Grothman led by were quickly eaten away in Sheboygan County.

Just a few minutes before this article went live early Wednesday afternoon, the AP appeared to remove the bright blue "W" from next to Grothman's name. (One Twitter user joked, "I honestly think the AP guy went to bed.") But a little before midnight, Grothman declared victory, and Stroebel (the third-place finisher) conceded defeat. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel declared Grothman the victor. But the margin was still narrowing. Leibham kept eating away at Grothman's margin, but by the time counting was done -- a bit after 1 a.m. -- he had come up short. It's still not final, however. As the Sheboygan Press reports, candidates have three days to request a recount, which could take another three or four days. It seems very likely that Leibham will do so.


Sources for real-time vote counts: 9:30, 10:11, 10:26, 10:29, 10:52, 11:33, 11:54, 12:32, 12:45, and 1:26.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He previously wrote for The Wire, the news blog of The Atlantic magazine. He has contributed to The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Daily, and the Huffington Post. Philip is based in New York City.
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