[LATE UPDATE:The recall ballots from Waukesha County have been saved from destruction, for now. Full details posted in our follow-up now here...]
One of the most notorious election officials in the nation may be mercifully retiring at the end of this year, but that hasn't stopped her from attempting to block citizens hoping to oversee the accuracy of their own elections in one of the most right-leaning counties in Wisconsin, following one of the most contentious elections of the year and certainly in state history.
Waukesha, WI County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus had, at one time, after the repeated controversies around her failed administration of several elections, promised to step aside and allow her deputy to administer the June 5th recall elections, only to reverse course weeks later. Now, clearly back in the saddle, she has notified an Election Integrity group which has organized hand-counts across the state, that she was preparing to "destroy" the paper ballots cast in the election before they can be hand-counted by the group, unless she receives a court order to do otherwise by noon today.
She had previously informed the group that she was denying them access to examine ballots on the basis that she found their request to be "overly burdensome" on her office. In her response she also added her personal opinion, for some reason, that she does not "believe the public records law should be utilized for the purpose of allowing citizens to conduct hand recounts of an election, especially one in which there was such a large quantity of votes cast."
Among reasons for concerns about the June 5th recall election results are recent failures by similar electronic tabulation systems, same-day Exit Poll results reported by all of the news networks indicating a much closer race in the contest between Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, as well as discoveries that have been made by the group over the past several weeks during their examination of ballots and poll-tapes in several counties.
So far, according to group's organizer, they have been allowed to examine ballots in 10 other counties across the state, with another 15 counties already scheduled for examination in the coming weeks. In a number of those counties, the group has explained to The BRAD BLOG, hand-counted tallies "have differed, sometimes significantly, from the recorded numbers," tallied on Election Night by the computer tabulation systems.
But Nickolaus, as has been her practice during her controversial tenure, appears to be taking a different tack from many of her fellow County Clerks, by denying access to hand examinations of the ballots and, worse, she is now threatening to destroy them entirely, save for a court order and despite provisions in the state law requiring the retention of those public records for at least 60 days after the denial of the request.
Nickolaus' threat to destroy the paper ballots and other elections records, as sent to the organizers of Hand-Count Votes Now! (HCVN) coalition in a series of emails obtained by The BRAD BLOG, flies in the face of state statutes which apply to public records, according to contentions made in response to Nickolaus by the group and their legal advisers. HCVN has been working for several weeks, as have several other organizations, in their effort to count ballots by hand in each of the Badger State's 72 counties in an unprecedented statewide public records oversight project.
The effort, the groups charge, is necessary, given the lack of verification of Election Night computer tallies on systems which have reported incorrect "winners" in the past, as recently as March of this year, when the nearly-identical systems to those used in Waukesha named a number of losing candidates to be the "winners" in Palm Beach County, FL. In that case, it was only a partial post-election hand-count examination of paper ballots by the local Supervisor of Elections which revealed that the computers had gotten the results entirely wrong, leading to a complete hand-count and the results of several municipal elections being overturned as a result...