The Wisconsin State Supreme Court election just hit… a bump. After a result on Tuesday that landed in an extremely narrow victory for challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, a clerk reported that 14,000 votes from Waukesha County had gone uncounted.
That’s the bump that reverses Tuesday’s election results and hands the Supreme Court back over to Republican incumbent David Prosser back in charge with a margin of 7,582 votes.
What is significant about that number? Well! Under Wisconsin State law, an automatic recount is triggered whenever an election’s margin is under .5 per cent – which in this case is approximately 7,400 votes.
Even better, the ‘clerical error’ that somehow missed 14,000 votes was committed by a woman named Kathy Nickolaus. If the State of Wisconsin were a high school, Nickolaus would be voted Most Likely To Commit Election Fraud. To wit:
Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, a former staffer for the Assembly Republican Caucus, has been sharply criticized in recent months for her handling of recent elections. Even the archly-conservative Waukesha County Board has sharply condemned Nickolaus after past elections, demanding an immediate audit of her practices following ominous red-flags that emerged regarding her lack of oversight, failure to create backup files and her stubborn insistence to “keep everything secret.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/18/10; 1/17/11]
The County auditors said it was eminently possible—including historical precedent—for Nickolaus or a rogue employee to tamper with data. Why? Nickolaus insists on controlling password access and has unilaterally decided to move sensitive files, like election results, onto her personal computer.
Nickolaus has actually scoffed at complying with impartial audits, thumbing her nose at critics. A move that drew a sharp reaction at the time from the County Board Chair:
“There really is nothing funny about this, Kathy,” said Waukesha County Board Chairman Jim Dwyer when Nickolaus willfully ignored complying with the earlier impartial audit. “Don’t sit there and grin when I’m explaining what this is about.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/18/10; 1/17/11]
On Tuesday, shockingly-large turnout suddenly emerged from Waukesha County, which did not comport with either the results of previous spring elections, or even internal estimates from city officials mid-day. In fact, a Waukesha City Deputy Clerk said at 1:18pm that turnout was very typical, predicting somewhere between 20 to 25 percent. As Tuesday night wore on, reporting in Waukesha County stopped altogether for hours, leaving observers to wonder what was going on. Then suddenly, results suggesting massive turnout started to pour in rapidly with Prosser adding dramatically to his total by a 73-27 percent margin.
One Wisconsin Now estimates put overall turnout near 38 percent, a wild outlier to historical data and the earlier mid-day estimation of Waukesha’s own officials. In April 2009, turnout was 20 percent; April 2008, turnout was 22 percent and in April 2007, turnout was 24. One Wisconsin Now