[Updated 4/8/11, 12:22am PT at bottom of article.]
As word was floating around this afternoon about a possible "book keeping error" discovered during canvassing of Tuesday's incredibly close Wisconsin Supreme Court election, an error that might give thousands of votes to Justice David Prosser in a race which he trailed by just 204 votes based on unofficial Election Night numbers, we idly wondered if the county in question might turn out to be the very controversial Kathy Nickolaus' Waukesha County.
And, whaddaya know...
April 7, 2011 5:29 P.M. By Christian Schneider
After Tuesday night's Wisconsin Supreme Court election, a computer error in heavily Republican Waukesha County failed to send election results for the entire City of Brookfield to the Associated Press. The error, revealed today, would give incumbent Supreme Court Justice David Prosser a net 7,381 votes against his challenger, attorney Joanne Kloppenburg. On Wednesday, Kloppenburg declared victory after the AP reported she finished the election with a 204-vote lead, out of nearly 1.5 million votes cast.
On election night, AP results showed a turnout of 110,000 voters in Waukesha County - well short of the 180,000 voters that turned out last November, and 42 percent of the county's total turnout. By comparison, nearly 90 percent of Dane County voters who cast a ballot in November turned out to vote for Kloppenburg.
Prior to the election, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus was heavily criticized for her decision to keep the county results on an antiquated personal computer, rather than upgrade to a new data system being utilized statewide. Nickolaus cited security concerns for keeping the data herself - yet when she reported the data, it did not include the City of Brookfield, whose residents cast nearly 14,000 votes.
Throughout the day Thursday, official canvass numbers flipped the lead back and forth between Prosser and Kloppenburg. While many believed a recount was inevitable, the addition of the Brookfield votes for Prosser could push the justice's lead beyond the legal threshold that would trigger an automatic recount. Under state law, Kloppenburg could still ask for a recount up to three days after the official canvass, but would have to pay for it herself.
The above comes from the Rightwing National Review Online and is similarly reported at this hour at the similarly Rightwing Weekly Standard where Stephen F. Hayes adds that Nickolaus is also "a Republican activist":
As Schneider notes in the NRO piece, Waukesha's County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus had indeed come under scrutiny for her election procedures in the past. As The BRAD BLOG flagged back in August of 2010, it was discovered that Nickolaus keeps election results on her personal PC in her office, and only on her personal PC.
At a press conference moments ago, Nickolaus is said to have attributed the confusion in numbers to "save error" in Microsoft Access on her computer.
As we noted, quoting the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last year in regard to questions about Nickolaus', um, unusual election procedures:
Nickolaus said she decided to take the election data collection and storage system off the county's computer network - and keep it on stand-alone personal computers accessible only in her office - for security reasons.
"What it gave me was good security of the elections from start to finish, without the ability of someone unauthorized to be involved," she said.
An audit of Nickolaus' election procedures was subsequently performed by the county and a number of recommendations to improve the security and accuracy of her system were made by the auditors. Among them, the recommendation that she stop using the same ID and password for three different employees in her office. Nickolaus claimed, in opposing that recommendation, that it would take too much time for one employee to log off before another one logged on with a different user ID.
When presented with the results of the audit at a County Board meeting in January after Nickolaus had refused to implement the recommendations, saying only that she would take them "into consideration," she was taken to task for what the Chairman of the Executive Committee described as her "smirks" during the discussion. Here is how the Journal Sentinel reported that meeting in January of this year...