Waukesha Republican county clerk finds 7,381 more Prosser votes -- in her personal computer? | WisCommunity

Waukesha Republican county clerk finds 7,381 more Prosser votes -- in her personal computer?

This is stunning, on many levels, if it stands.

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus just announced that she forgot to report votes from the City of Brookfield on election night, giving Justice David Prosser an additional 7,381 vote edge, ending any free recount possibilities, and giving Prosser the election.

The scenario, given the cast of characters, requires one to suspend disbelief to accept it as true.

Nickolaus, a highly partisan Republican who formerly worked in the Republican Assembly caucus, has been under fire for insisting on keeping voting records in her own personal computer rather than using a more sophisticated system most of the rest of Wisconsin uses.

Who brings us the news?  Not a legitimate media outlet, but Christian Schneider, an operative of the right-wing Wisconsin Public Research Institute.  The first "breaking news" came from the National Review Online. How did he get the news?

Nickolaus said in a news conference tonight that "human error" was responsible for her failure to include City of Brookfield totals in the vote counts she reported for Waukesha County on election night.

"It was human error ... which I apologize for ... which is common," she said somewhat haltingly.

Nickolaus had come under fire last summer for her plans on how to handle election data:

County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus has maintained that as the one in charge of elections, she is responsible for the security and operation of the system. However, other county officials say they worry about the integrity of the old equipment and the system she's using and whether she has adequate backup.


County Corporation Counsel Thomas Farley told the committee Monday that as an elected official with responsibility for elections, "If she wants to keep everything secret, she probably can.


"I don't know if that's wise or what she should do, but if she wants to and the public is satisfied that that's what they want - someone who keeps everything secret - that's up to them."


The issue came to a head when Nickolaus removed the election results collection and tallying system from the county computer network this spring and installed it on standalone personal computers in her office. She has said they are backed up with redundant systems.


Director of Administration Norman A. Cummings said Nickolaus has been uncooperative with attempts to have information technologists review the system and confirm the backups.

Nickolaus said the problem on Tuesday night was her failure to save data from Brookfield in her master data base before running her final report.

Just hours before her revelation, One Wisconsin Now presciently issued a news release questioning what went on Tuesday night in Waukesha County:

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.


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 percent. All of these elections had hotly-contested Supreme Court races as well.

Now Nickolaus says there were actually an additional 14,315 votes in Brookfield -- and almost 11,000 of them were for Prosser.

This may turn out to be true. But you can certainly understand why supporters of JoAnne Kloppenburg, who was leading by 204 votes in unofficial returns on Wednesday, will be disbeleving. They will no doubt claim fraud. It may be a little hard to swallow that a Republican clerk in the biggest vote-producing county in the vote for conservative candidates, including Prosser, discovered another 14,000 votes in her personal computer, if that's where they were. Only Christian Schneider knows, presumably.

So when they cry fraud, don't blame them. That could also turn out to be true.

Because of the margin by which Prosser now leads, Kloppenburg, it appears, would now have to bear the costs of a recount if she demands one -- as she certainly should. That's just one more coincidence that's going to be hard to swallow.


April 7, 2011 - 6:22pm