Election officials scrutinize Waukesha County results

April 9, 2011

By Jason Stein, Bill Glauber and Sharif Durhams of the Journal Sentinel

Madison — State election officials combed through Waukesha County election results Friday but fended off calls for examining individual ballots as Justice David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg remained locked in a contentious Supreme Court race.

Kevin Kennedy, director of the state Government Accountability Board, dispatched staff to Waukesha County to verify results after Thursday’s “Brookfield bombshell” saw thousands of previously untabulated votes going to Prosser, pushing him ahead in the race.

Kennedy also questioned why Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus had waited more than a day to inform him and the public of the error.

“This was a large number of votes. This is the kind of thing that I would expect at least would have been brought to our attention. . . . I have confidence in the Waukesha County clerk,” Kennedy told reporters. “She does a very good job. But I also recognize that there are some things she needs to improve.”

Amid intense interest Friday, Nickolaus, a Republican, made no new comment and didn’t address the delay in reporting the problem.

Meanwhile, updated but not yet final results compiled by the Journal Sentinel showed Prosser ahead by 6,744 votes out of nearly 1.5 million cast – a difficult margin to overcome in a recount but one that could still leave Kloppenburg with the possibility of a free recount under state law. Both campaigns acknowledged they were seeking advice from the top recount attorneys in the nation, but a campaign aide to Kloppenburg held off on saying whether she would seek the first statewide recount in two decades.

“We’re going to let the process, the (official) canvass conclude and see where things are at that point,” Kloppenburg’s campaign manager Melissa Mulliken said.

Prosser continued his daily routine as a justice Friday, including a meeting with 15 international students at the Capitol, where he took time to answer questions from reporters. He said he was “a lot happier” than he was on election night but was not yet claiming a victory.

“She may have a perfect legal right to seek a recount,” Prosser said. “If the vote was 204 votes or 500 votes or perhaps even 1,000 votes, I don’t think there would be a dispute if there were a recount. But if it’s 7,000 votes, is there ever any experience, any precedent, for making up 7,000 votes, even in an election of a million and a half votes?”

A recount, Prosser said, “would be hand-to-hand combat, attacking and trying to invalidate votes, often on absentee ballots or something of that sort.”

Kloppenburg supporters continued to question Friday whether Nickolaus had worked closely with Prosser in the Assembly in the mid-1990s while she worked for the body and Prosser oversaw it as a top GOP lawmaker. But Prosser and Nickolaus’ boss at the time both said Friday that was not the case.

The race swung toward Prosser on Thursday after Nickolaus said that she failed to save on her computer and then report 14,315 votes in the city of Brookfield, omitting them entirely in an unofficial total that she released after Tuesday’s election.

With other smaller errors in Waukesha County, that meant Prosser gained 7,582 votes there over Kloppenburg.

To read more, visit: http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/119486574.html


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