The hazy situation in the very narrow Wisconsin Supreme Court race — where the results were upended on Thursday, when Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus (R) announced that human error had resulted in the omission of a municipality’s votes, and a more than a net 7,000-vote gain for conservative Justice David Prosser — saw more developments on Monday.
On Thursday of last week, Nickolaus announced the discovery of un-tabulated votes in the city of Brookfield, saying that her own error had resulted in them not being properly imported and saved into the county’s database.
On Friday, the state Government Accountability Board — which oversees elections — had announced that it sent staff to Waukesha County, to examine procedures there. A spokesman for the GAB told TPM that they are examining both the individual precinct returns and the manner in which they were reported to the media on election night. While they cannot at this point comment on the substance of that examination, the GAB said that the County Clerk is being cooperative.
Separately, GAB Director Kevin Kennedy told WisPolitics this evening that the numbers in Brookfield appear to match up: “We don’t see, at this point, any criminal activity, but we certainly see practices that need to be changed to bolster public confidence.”
And today, in a potentially significant development, the Democratic member of the county canvassing board, county Dem vice chair Ramona Kitzinger, has released a statement seriously walking back the corroboration she had previously given at Nickolaus’s press conference on Thursday.Key quote:
Once the canvass had been completed and the results were finalized, I was called into Kathy’s office along with Pat (the Republican observer) and told of an impending 5:30pm press conference. It was at that point that I was first made aware of an error Kathy had made in Brookfield City. Kathy told us she thought she had saved the Brookfield voter information Tuesday night, but then on Wednesday she said she noticed she had not hit save. Kathy didn’t offer an explanation about why she didn’t mention anything prior to Thursday afternoon’s canvass completion, but showed us different tapes where numbers seemed to add up, though I have no idea where the numbers were coming from. I was not told of the magnitude of this error, just that she had made one. I was then instructed that I would not say anything at the press conference, and was actually surprised when I was asked questions by reporters.
The reason I offer this explanation is that, with the enormous amount of attention this has received over the weekend, many people are offering my statements at the press conference that the “numbers jibed” as validation they are correct and I can vouch for their accuracy. As I told Kathy when I was called into the room – I am 80 years old and I don’t understand anything about computers. I don’t know where the numbers Kathy was showing me ultimately came from, but they seemed to add up. I am still very, very confused about why the canvass was finalized before I was informed of the Brookfield error and it wasn’t even until the press conference was happening that I learned it was this enormous mistake that could swing the whole election. I was never shown anything that would verify Kathy’s statement about the missing vote, and with how events unfolded and people citing me as an authority on this now, I feel like I must speak up.
TPM spoke to GAB spokesman Reid Magney, about the progress in Waukesha. “I’m not prepared at this point to discuss the substance of what [lead Election Specialist Diane Lowe] found. I can tell you that our investigation into this really has two parts. One is that we are looking at Waukesha County’s numbers, and ensuring that the numbers that were reported in the Waukesha County canvass match up with the numbers from all of the polling places in Waukesha County.”
“The second part is to look at election night practices in terms of how the unofficial numbers get distributed to the public,” Magney added. “In a lot of county courthouses, it used to be they would have a big blackboard, and the precincts would come in and they would write the numbers in with chalk, and they would erase and update the numbers as they went. Many counties now have electronic systems that provide — put it up on a big screen TV or a projector or something like that, and project the numbers as they come in. And you would see municipality by municipality or ward by ward as it comes in. Waukesha County does not have that kind of system. Waukesha County’s system is the clerk puts in the numbers people send in to her, and when she has the numbers in, she then reports a total for the county.”
“There is no requirement in the law that she necessarily provide the other type of information…had she been providing a detailed list, everybody would have seen that there would be zeroes for all the wards in Brookfield, and someone would have said, ‘Hey, where’s Brookfield?'”
When asked about Kitzinger’s statements, Magney said he did not immediately know whether anyone in the GAB had spoken with her.
Calls left with the Waukesha County Clerk’s office, and at Ramona Kitzinger’s home, were not immediately returned.
According to the latest tally from WisPolitics, Prosser leads by 7,304 votes — which is still just within the 0.5% margin that would entitle Kloppenburg to request a statewide recount at state and local government expense.