Wisconsin's Asst. Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg has filed paperwork for a statewide, state-sponsored "recount" in the controversial April 5th State Supreme Court election. She has also called for a special investigator be named to examine questions about election results in Waukesha County, where the County Clerk's procedures have come under fire both before and since the election.
Speaking to supporters at a press conference moments ago in Madison, Kloppenburg pointed to a number of reported irregularities around the state, including in Waukesha County, as well as Racine and Milwaukee and a number of other areas, which helped lead to her decision to ask for such a count. She also mentioned unusually high undervote rates in a number of districts that the campaign had examined.
"A recount may change the outcome of this election or it may confirm it, but when it is done, a recount will have shed necessary and appropriate light on an election that right now, seems to so many people to be suspect," Kloppenburg said.
In response to a question from reporters, she added, "I've asked for a recount to determine what the right count is, and also to preserve confidence in the electoral process."
Kloppenburg stated that her campaign would be asking for a hand count of ballots in several districts, and will work with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.), the state's top election agency, to determine which areas should be hand counted. State recount procedures allow for a machine recount of paper ballots unless a hand examination is ordered by a court.
In response to critics of such a post-election examination of results, including from the campaign of her opponent, Justice David Prosser, Kloppenburg was unflinching in her response, saying they've called it "a drama and a circus. Actually, it's called American Democracy."
During her remarks, she also called for on the G.A.B. "to appoint a special investigator to professionally, thoroughly and completely investigate the actions and words of the Waukesha County Clerk." That County Clerk, Kathy Nickolaus, a GOP activist and former employee of Prosser's while in the Assembly Republican Caucus, has become the focus of a number of anomalies that have emerged in election results since Election Night.
"The recount will reveal if there were discrepancies in the Waukesha vote count, but going forward, an independent investigation needs to determine what the clerk did there and why," she explained, while pointing to a number of still-unanswered questions about post-election vote tallies in Waukesha, including why it is that "conservative bloggers" were told about those adjustments before they were announced publicly.
"I don't know what will happen in the recount, but we're asking for a recount to determine what the proper count should be, and to help, from this point forward, to assure that elections are fair," Kloppenburg said, stressing her belief that the count should move forward for the benefit of all voters in Wisconsin...
Results of the Supreme Court election have drawn close scrutiny over the last two weeks, as Kloppenburg's unofficial 204 vote "victory" on Election Night turned into a 7,316 vote "loss" to the incumbent Prosser after his former colleague and GOP activist turned Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus announced some 14,000+ votes from the city of Brookfield that she says she failed to include in results announced on Election Night.
The election itself had become a proxy battle between supporters of Gov. Scott Walker's controversial legislation stripping union members of their right to collectively bargain with the state, and those who supported the unions. Prosser, a partisan Republican, has vowed to support the state GOP agenda, while Kloppenburg has maintained she planned to be an independent jurist, guided by the rule of law rather than partisan politics. She reiterated again at the press conference today that she would not be aligned with unions or their supporters, but rather would proceed independently on the bench.
The court's balance with Prosser still on it is weighted 4 to 3 in favor of the Right, and would likely change if Kloppenburg were to replace Prosser before Walker's controversial measures make it to the high court where they are sure to be challenged.
After all 72 counties in the Badger State completed their canvass last week, Prosser held a press conference to declare victory and vow to block any verification of the unverified vote count, despite state law which allows for such a post-election verification if a candidate comes within half a percentage point of the reported winner. Prosser currently holds a 0.488% lead over Kloppenburg out of some 1.5 million ballots cast, after all counties have submitted their final canvass report.
It must be noted, however, the counties' post-election reconciliations do not include verification of actual results to assure the oft-failed, easily-manipulated optical-scan computer tally systems used in the majority of the state accurately tallied the hand-marked paper ballots.
State recount procedures [PDF] allow for a hand count of paper ballots only by court order after a candidate demonstrates that such a hand count was likely to change the results of the election. Short of a hand-count, as election integrity advocates have called for, the ballots will be run through the same optical-scanners used to tally them previously. However, campaigns representatives will be allowed to examine each ballot before it is run through the scanner, allowing for a "virtual hand count" of sorts in the process.
We've got to get to KPFK to do our Wednesday 3:30pm PT radio show today, where we will be covering this story in more detail (you can listen live here). And, undoubtedly, we'll have updates to this story later today/tonight as warranted. [UPDATE: Audio from our KPFK show coverage is now here.]
UPDATE 7:16pm PT: Raw video of the prepared portion of Kloppenburg's presser remarks is now posted here.
Previous coverage at The BRAD BLOG of WI's 4/5/11 Supreme Court election...
4/19/11: WI's Government Accountability Board Finds 'No Major Discrepancies' in Waukesha County Canvass
4/18/11: Prosser Campaign Vows to Block a State-Sponsored 'Recount' in WI Supreme Court Election Debacle
4/15/11: Prosser 'Wins' WI Supreme Court Election by 7,316 Over Kloppenburg, According to Unverified Canvass
4/14/11: Waukesha, WI Follies: 97.63% Turnout in 2004? 20,000 More Votes Than 'Ballots Cast' in 2006?
4/14/11: 'State Investigating Vote Irregularities in Waukesha County Going Back 5 Years'
4/11/11: 'Democracy's Gold Standard' - A 'Special Comment' by Brad Friedman in the Wake of WI's Supreme Court Election Debacle
4/8/11: WI's Supreme Election Debacle (And What We Should, But Probably Won't, Learn From It)
4/7/11:: Prosser Up by 7500+ in WI Supreme Court Race After 'Database Error' Discovered by Controversial Clerk in Republican Waukesha County
4/6/11:: WI Supreme Court Election Virtually Deadlocked, According to the Machines Anyway