[UPDATE] Xiong Wins Race for Vacant Seat on Eau Claire City Council

Wisconsin's spring election was six days ago, but clerks were finally allowed to count the ballots

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

Ready ... set ... tally!
Ready ... set ... tally!

UPDATE 9:30pm: With 94 of 94 precincts reporting, the final totals have been reported in Eau Claire County. Here’s a quick look at the winners:

  • Mai Xiong was elected to a vacant seat on the Eau Claire City Council. She defeated Dale Poynter, 10,245 votes to 5,386 votes, gaining roughly 65% of the vote.
  • Voters approved a $48.8 million building referendum for Chippewa Valley Technical College. With nearly all precincts tallied across the 11 counties CVTC serves, the referendum was approved with roughly 62% of the vote. (In Eau Claire County, 67% of voters favored the referendum.)
  • Incumbent Taylor Neff and newcomer Hillarie Roth were elected to the Altoona school board.
  • Incumbents Phillip Lyons and Lori Bica were re-elected to the Eau Claire school board. A total of 2,537 write-in votes were cast for a third seat on the school board, but tallies for individual write-in candidates weren’t available Monday evening.
  • The Eau Claire County Clerk’s office estimated that 34.7% of eligible voters turned out for the April 7 election, either in person or via absentee ballot. By comparison, an estimated 25% of eligible voters turned out for the last spring general election in April 2019.
  • With most precincts statewide reporting, The Associated Press declared that liberal challenger Jill Karofsky had unseated conservative incumbent Dan Kelly in a race for the state Supreme Court, picking up roughly 54% of the vote.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden easily won the Democratic presidential primary over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who suspended his campaign last week and endorsed Biden earlier Monday. With 92% of state precincts reporting, Biden had won 533,272 votes, or 64%, versus 260,559, or 31%, for Sanders, the Journal Sentinel reported. None of the other 10 Democrats on the ballot got more than 1% of the vote.

UPDATE 6:46pm: Political newcomer Mai Xiong seems to be cruising toward victory in the race for an open seat on the Eau Claire City Council. With 49 of 74 wards tallied, she leads Dale Poynter, 6,786 votes to 3,622. If she maintains her lead, Xiong will become the first woman of Hmong heritage elected to the City Council, and she will be the sixth woman on the 11-member council.

In the state Supreme Court race, challenger Jill Karofsky leads statewide, according to the Journal Sentinel: With 57% of the state’s precincts reporting, Karofsky leads incumbent Justice Daniel Kelly with 53% of the vote. In Eau Claire County, Karofsky’s lead is wider; she’s picked up 61% of the vote with 68 of 94 precincts tallied.

UPDATE 5:55pm: With more than half of the wards in the City of Eau Claire counted, Mai Xiong has maintained her lead over fellow political newcomer Dale Poynter in the race for an open seat on the City Council. With 41 of 74 wards tallied, Xiong has 4,621 votes (65%) versus Poynter’s 2,499 (35%).

Statewide, the Journal Sentinel reports that challenger Jill Karofsky and incumbent Justice Daniel Kelly are in a virtual dead heat for a seat on the state Supreme Court. With 34% of the state’s precincts reporting just before 6pm, Karofsky led Kelly by fewer than 3,000 votes.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press called the Wisconsin Democratic primary for Joe Biden, who seemed on his way to a wide victory over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who suspended his campaign last week and endorsed the former vice president today.

UPDATE 5:19pm: With 21 of 74 precincts reporting, Mai Xiong is leading Dale Poynter in the race for a vacant seat on the Eau Claire City Council. Xiong has won about two-thirds of the votes tallied so far, leading 1,695 to 848, according to figures posted by the Eau Claire County Clerk’s office. But the night is still young! Meanwhile, in the moot-but-still-interesting-to-watch Democratic presidential primary in Eau Claire County, Joe Biden leads Bernie Sanders, 3,136 votes to 1,764 votes (or 60.3% to 33.9%), with 32 of 94 precincts reporting.

ORIGINAL POST: You can call tonight Election Night 2.0. Under normal circumstances, Election Night – when candidates and their supporters either revel in victory or commiserate in defeat – usually directly follows Election Day. Like everything else in life over the past month, however, that was scrambled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. While Wisconsin’s spring general election (accessorized with face masks and latex gloves) was held as scheduled on Tuesday, April 7, the actual tally of the votes, which typically occurs as soon as the polls close, was delayed until today.

The reason? Originally, a federal judge had ruled that Wisconsin voters would be able to cast absentee ballots after the polls closed as long as the ballots were received by 4pm on Monday, April 13. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that order on April 6, requiring instead that ballots be postmarked by April 7. However the high court’s ruling let stand part of the original order delaying the vote tally until 4pm Monday, April 13.

Which brings us to today: 4pm was the deadline for municipal clerks in the state to receive absentee ballots. Even as you read this, town, village, and city clerks are adding up those ballots and sending the totals to their respective county clerks. In Eau Claire County, that means County Clerk Janet Loomis, who plans on posting the results as they come in on the county’s website (which you can visit here). While the process of posting vote totals is usually a smooth, progressive process, it’s hard to say what will happen tonight: Election Night 2.0 could be quick, or it could take a while.

So what results are we waiting for? In the City of Eau Claire, the main event is a contest between Dale Poynter and Mai Xiong to fill an open seat on the City Council, which was vacated when Councilwoman Laura Benjamin resigned in November. City Council President Terry Weld’s name also appeared on the ballot, but he was running unopposed, so expect him to be a shoo-in.

Meanwhile, there were three open seats on the Eau Claire school board but only two candidates on the ballot, incumbents Lori Bica and Phil Lyon, although several other hopefuls were running as write-in candidates.

On a statewide level, incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly was being challenged by Jill Karofsky. The state Supreme Court is technically nonpartisan, but Kelly was widely backed by conservatives and Karofsky by liberals.

And, of course, Wisconsin voters also cast ballots in the Democratic presidential primary. However, considering Bernie Sanders’ recent decision to suspend his campaign and endorse frontrunner Joe Biden, the results won’t have a bearing on Biden’s status as the presumptive Dem nominee.

We’ll be watching the returns as they come in, so expect this post to be updated a time or two before the night is over.

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