Several weeks ago we told you that Kathy Nickolaus, the controversial and oft-failed County Clerk of Waukesha County, WI, was stepping aside for the state's upcoming recall primary and general elections on May 8 and June 5.
The news that she would not be performing her usual election administration duties came on the heels of yet another embarrassing debacle in the state's most Republican county during their April 3rd Presidential Primary.
Nickolaus' decision to temporarily hand over her duties to Waukesha's Deputy Clerk Kelly Yaeger for the two recall elections was prompted after calls for her resignation by the chair of the County Executive Board as well as local newspapers. The most recent mess was said to have been caused by a failure of her computer system to upload computer-reported elections results of county municipalities until 6am on the morning following that election.
Shortly after the latest mess, during an interview while we were guest hosting the Mike Malloy Show on April 6th, election integrity expert John Washburn of Wisconsin Fair Elections explained to us that Yaeger had been both hired and trained by Nickolaus herself.
The temporary replacement by her Deputy offered little comfort for Washburn. Prompted by recent disturbing news that elections run on electronic tabulation systems identical to those used in Waukesha County had recently been found to have named several losing candidates as "winners" in elections in a different state, Washburn, a Republican, suggested he had little basis for confidence in whatever reported results might come out of the state's most Republican-leaning county in the upcoming recalls.
It appears that Washburn is not alone. Late Friday, it was reported that a number of the municipalities in Waukesha will be bypassing the County Clerk's office entirely by first sending their election night results straight to the Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.), the state's top election agency. But it may be new concerns about computer-tallied results in the Badger State that present even greater problems for the historic elections beginning next month in the Badger State...
That's because Waukesha County is now requiring municipalities with the capability to do so to submit the results directly to the state instead of first reporting them to the county.
Votes will be entered directly into the state system by the municipal clerks, which eliminates the need for clerks or election workers to come to the county clerk’s office on election night.
After the results are entered into the state system, clerks will sign a report and fax it to the county clerk’s office, according to an email sent by Deputy County Clerk Kelly Yaeger to area clerks.
The county will still post unofficial results with the GAB, canvass the votes and perform all other duties under state law.
Curiously, Millard's article ends by noting that "A spokesman for the GAB said Friday evening that he was unaware of the changes."
As we've been on the road, and just received this news late in the afternoon, we've been unable to confirm the report with the G.A.B. We have, however, sent a request for confirmation and any additional information to spokesperson Reid Magney, and will post an update with his response.
[UPDATE 4/24/12: Apologizing for the delay in his response, Magney now confirms the report above by sending us a link to the G.A.B.'s official statement on the new plan for Waukesha election results.]
A report late Friday night by Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel suggests the new procedural changes are largely cosmetic, however.
According to a spokesman for the Waukesha County Executive chairman, sending computer tabulated results on Election Night directly to the G.A.B "is just a way for us to expedite how the numbers are being posted on the Internet for unofficial election results."
In other words, if the new procedures work, it will result only in the public knowing earlier what the completely unverified computer tallies are reported to be.
New Concerns About Recall Results
Concerns about accurate results of the upcoming recall elections in Waukesha have been multiplied of late thanks to a remarkable software failure during a March 13th election in Palm Beach County, FL on the very same model of computerized tabulators as those used in Waukesha (and other counties around the state, as well as some 14 other states across the nation).
During Palm Beach County elections, paper ballot optical-scanners made by Sequoia Voting Systems had incorrectly reported a number of candidates winning their races on Election Night, even though they'd received fewer votes than their opponents. Luckily, the failure was spotted by the Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections during a post-election spot-check of the paper ballots some days later. The correct results of the elections later were determined by a 100% hand-count of those ballots. No such post-election spot-check is carried out after elections in Wisconsin.
Dominion Voting, the Canadian firm which recently acquired Sequoia Voting Systems (and lied about it), has admitted the errors in Palm Beach were caused by programming flaws in all existing versions of their central tabulator systems, the same systems which are still used in Waukesha.
Old Concerns About Waukesha
The BRAD BLOG has been covering the election administration failures and disasters of Nickolaus since 2010, months before she managed to achieve national infamy during the state's April 5th Supreme Court election when, following the unofficial announcement of a slim victory by challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, Nickolaus claimed to have discovered some 14,000 votes that she'd failed to report on Election Night. The new numbers flipped the results and awarded a 7,500 vote lead to incumbent state Supreme Court Justice David "The Strangler" Prosser, her old boss in the state Assembly Republican Caucus.
Nickolaus' failure resulted in a call for a state-wide recount and a months-long hand-count process during which thousands of ballot bags were discovered to have been open or torn, featuring missing or changed security seals and serial numbers and even computer-printed results tapes indicating they'd been printed days prior to the election.
Despite what challenger Kloppenburg described as a "cascade of widespread irregularities" and a failure by the state G.A.B. to review hundreds of officials exhibits and thousands of pages of documentation of those irregularities, Prosser was eventually certified as the winner, assuring a Right-leaning majority on the state Supreme Court.
Citizen Oversight During the Recall
Election expert Washburn has personally worked with Nickolaus at various times over the years, even sitting in for her during a County Executive meeting some years ago. Nonetheless, he says there will be little reason to have confidence in reported recall results out of Waukesha.
He advises that voters with concerns about results of the elections should go to polling places just before they close in order to oversee the poll closing process and the printing of results from computer tabulators at the precinct.
"Show up for the closing of the elections at eight-o'clock. At that point it's an open meeting, turn on the camera," advised Washburn on the Malloy Show earlier this month.
Once polls close, he notes, the proceedings are then an open meeting by the local board of canvassers which may be recorded by cameras and other devices.
"Record what you see," he says. "If you see anything weird, insist that it be put on the Inspector's Report, because if it ain't on the official election report, it didn't happen."