UPDATE: Having watched the news conference where the “discovery” of these missing votes was announced, I can’t help but wonder why it took something in the neighborhood of 29 hours after these votes were “discovered” for Kathy Nickolaus to make the announcement regarding the votes. What’s more, how is it that Christian Schneider of right-wing Wisconsin Policy Research Institute broke this story before anyone else? What inside information was Schneider given?
Just a few minutes ago, Kathy Nickolaus, the Republican County Clerk of Waukesha who used to work for the Assembly Republican Caucus, dropped what can only be categorized as a bombshell when she revealed more than 7,000 votes in favor of Justice David Prosser in Waukesha County were “found” two days after election day.
Kathy Nickolaus has come under sharp criticism over the past six months for her handling of elections, including removing election results collection and tallying systems from the Waukesha County computer network and placing those systems on a personal computer in her office:
The issue came to a head when Nickolaus removed the election results collection and tallying system from the county computer network this spring and installed it on standalone personal computers in her office. She has said they are backed up with redundant systems.
Director of Administration Norman A. Cummings said Nickolaus has been uncooperative with attempts to have information technologists review the system and confirm the backups.
He said he isn’t interested in placing the system on the county network, but he wants to know whether the system is functional and secure and whether the county will have to replace equipment and programs in the next budget year – in time for the next presidential election.
“It is not a good idea to have one person in charge of everything,” Cummings told the committee. “There should be someone who also reviews things. I’m not saying it should be IT. But there should be more accountability than there is now.”
Following the audit of her practices, Nickolaus came under fire from the Waukesha County Board of Supervisors (no bunch of liberals, to be sure), who didn’t appreciate her reaction to their concerns:
“There really is nothing funny about this, Kathy,” said Waukesha County Board Chairman Jim Dwyer when Nickolaus willfully ignored complying with the earlier impartial audit. “Don’t sit there and grin when I’m explaining what this is about.”
[. . .]
The audit was requested by the Executive Committee after the county’s director of administration, Norm Cummings, said Nickolaus had been uncooperative with attempts to have the county’s experts review her systems and confirm that backups were in place.
Because some of her equipment is so dated – such as an 11-year-old modem for transmitting data over the telephone and 1995 software no longer supported – and is not routinely getting security updates, her election systems are not connected to the county’s system but are on stand-alone equipment.
In their audit of Nickolaus’ handling of the systems for collecting and tallying votes, county auditors said it was entirely possible for Nickolaus or one of her employees to tamper with voting data due to Nickolaus’ insistence on controlling password access to those systems.
According to a report by One Wisconsin Now, their estimates of voter turnout in Waukesha County was 38%, a number much higher than in past elections:
On Tuesday, shockingly-large turnout suddenly emerged from Waukesha County, which did not comport with either the results of previous spring elections, or even internal estimates from city officials mid-day. In fact, a Waukesha City Deputy Clerk said at 1:18pm that turnout was very typical, predicting somewhere between 20 to 25 percent. As Tuesday night wore on, reporting in Waukesha County stopped altogether for hours, leaving observers to wonder what was going on. Then suddenly, results suggesting massive turnout started to pour in rapidly with Prosser adding dramatically to his total by a 73-27 percent margin.
One Wisconsin Now estimates put overall turnout near 38 percent, a wild outlier to historical data and the earlier mid-day estimation of Waukesha’s own officials. In April 2009, turnout was 20 percent; April 2008, turnout was 22 percent and in April 2007, turnout was 24 percent. All of these elections had hotly-contested Supreme Court races as well.
In an interesting twist to this whole story, the AFSCME Council 24 SEPAC blog is reporting David Prosser’s campaign has hired two attorneys that represented then-presidential candidate George W. Bush in the 2000 Florida recount when Vice President Al Gore suddenly found himself not being the winner of the state of Florida.
No doubt if this situation were developing in Milwaukee County and the votes “found” favored JoAnne Kloppenburg, conservatives would be screaming about vote fraud, but since this happened in reliably Republican Waukesha County, that same cast of hypocrites will no doubt stay silent.