Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg has officially announced that she is requesting a statewide recount in her race against incumbent Supreme Court Justice David Prosser.
“A recount may change the outcome of this election, or it may confirm it. But when it is done, recount will have shed necessary and appropriate light on an election that right now seems to so many people to be suspect.”
She also added: “If there is doubt, we must remove it. If there was misconduct, we must hold those who perpetrated it accountable.”
Prosser leads by 7,316 votes, or 0.488%, within the 0.5% margin that entitles Kloppenburg to request a recount at state and local government expense.Kevin Kennedy, the director of the state Government Accountability Board — which oversees elections in the state — released a statement after the Kloppenburg campaign had officially filed its request, and shortly before Kloppenburg’s press conference was set to begin:
“The Government Accountability Board is prepared to move forward with a statewide recount of votes for Supreme Court Justice, as requested by the Kloppenburg campaign today. We have been preparing for a recount since Election Night. We have assembled an internal team to direct the recount, we have been in close consultation with our county clerk partners, and have arranged for legal representation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice. We anticipate the recount will begin the week of April 25, and plan to hold a teleconference meeting for county clerks on Monday afternoon.”
Prosser declared victory on Monday — and although his margin is within the 0.5% margin, Prosser’s attorney Jim Troupis said that the campaign would legally challenge any request for a recount, though Troupis declined to say on what legal grounds an objection would be made.
When asked about that position on Wednesday, Kloppenburg responded, “I have been a litigator for 22 years, and in my experience, litigators who make threats in public without any citation to the law or the facts don’t get very far. The statutes provide for a recount in a situation such as this, and their threats will not thwart our exercise of our rights under the statutes.”
Kloppenburg said she was seeking a statewide recount, rather than a narrow one confined to Waukesha County, due to reports of possible errors or under-counts in various counties around the state.
At the end of the press conference, Kloppenburg pointed out how when she had been narrowly ahead the day after the election, “supporters of my opponent were out of the box saying ‘voter fraud.’ We have never articulated voter fraud, no matter what the ups and downs were. And now my opponent is changing his tune and saying there should be no recount whatsoever. I have been consistent in saying we should do what the law requests, and in this case it requires a recount.”
Early on, Prosser was widely expected to easily win re-election, given the advantages of incumbency in terms of fundraising, name recognition, and the organizational backing of the state business establishment and Republican Party in the nominally non-partisan race. However, the widespread protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation quickly turned this into a proxy political battle, and unions brought a late but very energetic effort on Kloppenburg’s behalf in effort to defeat Prosser, a former Republican state Assembly Speaker.
Wednesday, April 6, the day after the election, Kloppenburg declared victory on the basis of Associated Press figures showing 100% of precincts reported, with Kloppenburg enjoying the very narrow lead of 204 votes out of nearly 1.5 million.
Then that Thursday, as counties were conducting the official canvass to check for errors in their election night spreadsheets that were reported to the media, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus (R) announced the discovery of un-tabulated votes from the city of Brookfield — giving Prosser a net gain of over 7,000 — saying that her own error had resulted in them not being properly imported and saved into the county’s database.
“I’m thankful that this error was caught early in the process and during the canvass,” Nickolaus said at the press conference last week.
Since then, Democrats have been crying foul about the race — and also raising doubts about past election results in the county, as well. For her part, Nickolaus has responded to the criticism and said she will not resign: “I will serve the remainder of my term. I understand why people are upset and I am taking this matter seriously. Again, I am sorry for my mistake.”
On Tuesday of this week, the GAB released a statement that its study of the vote numbers in Waukesha County found that the totals checked out on the voting equipment (Wisconsin uses optical-scan paper ballots) and other documentation from the municipalities.
(Special thanks to the CBS affiliate in Madison, for providing a live video stream.)