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Mandatory Judicial Recount in WI Continues– Waukesha County will not hit 5/9/11 deadline

with 10 comments

The mandatory recount continues in Wisconsin with the April 5, 2011 judicial race between incumbent David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg continuing to be properly recounted due to the less than 1/2 percent difference in their vote totals.  All counties save Waukesha — the really big problem county for reasons I’ve detailed in several previous posts — will be finished by tomorrow, May 9, 2011, which was the date the Government Accountability Board had set for the completion of the mandatory recount.  But Waukesha County — the biggest problem county in the state — will not.

What a surprise!

Here’s a story from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel regarding all this, available at

A relevant quote:

All counties with the exception of Waukesha County are expected to complete the recount of the state Supreme Court election by the 5 p.m. Monday deadline, the Government Accountability Board said late Friday afternoon.

Waukesha County officials earlier in the week informed the board that the hand recount would not be completed by the deadline and the board will seek a court extension of the deadline on Monday.

Kevin Kennedy, accountability board director, said the court hearing on the extension for Waukesha County is scheduled for 8 a.m. Monday in Dane County Circuit Court.

Ellen Nowak, chief of staff to Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas, said Friday officials don’t know yet how much more time will be needed to complete the recount.

As of late Friday, the recount was only about 30% complete in Waukesha County, Nowak said.

Note that the date of this article was May 6, 2011 — this past Friday evening — and that as of that time, only 30% of Waukesha County was counted.  This is not acceptable; they’ve had the same amount of time as everyone else (starting a week and a half ago on Wednesday, April 27, 2011) and yet they haven’t even counted 30% of the ballots yet?

Considering both Dane and Milwaukee Counties are much bigger, population-wise (thus more ballots were used in both counties than Waukesha), and considering there were at least two counties (Wausau County and Fond du Lac County) which actually ran out of ballots because so many people came out to vote (it would’ve been understandable had those two smaller counties needed more time), it is absolutely ridiculous that only 30% of Waukesha County’s vote total has been counted. 

Yet it’s the truth.

I realize that there have been multiple problems in Waukesha County: bags with ballots have been improperly sealed — bags are supposed to be sealed up completely between voting day and a recount, and yet they weren’t.  In some cases, the wrong numbers were on the bags — every ballot bag must have a number, and they must match the poll count from the poll workers, and yet, they haven’t in Waukesha County many, many times already.  And quite a few ballots have been objected to because they look odd or don’t match the vote totals or they just don’t make any sense — which is part of the reason the vote count has been so slow, but isn’t the only reason, for certain.

I know observers from both the Prosser and Kloppenburg camps will be out in force in Waukesha County all week long.   And that does slow things down — yet it’s the only way we have to make sure this election was a fair one.  An ethical one.   One that truly reflects the will of the Wisconsin voters who went out to vote on 4/5/2011.

I believe we can do better than this and we must do better than this in Wisconsin.  Which is why I’ve observed the recount (a bit) in Racine and why I will once again go out to observe in Waukesha if all goes well sometime this week — because I am not convinced that what happened in Waukesha County, where their County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus found ballots one and a half days after the election had concluded (note this is solely the fault of Kathy Nickolaus, not the folks in Brookfield who had been telling her for the day and a half that their votes hadn’t been counted), was right.  I’m sure Brookfield’s totals will be proven out — but I think something else happened there in that day and a half that wasn’t right and that the recount volunteers (either on the canvassing board or the observers themselves) will find it.

We may be heading to a state-wide re-vote, all because Kathy Nickolaus didn’t do her job correctly in Waukesha County.  But whether we are or aren’t, at this point we must make sure that any future election, in Waukesha County or anywhere else, is conducted fairly, properly, and impartially.

Otherwise, elections are meaningless, and we may as well not even bother going out to vote.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 8, 2011 at 8:57 pm

10 Responses

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  1. Wow, this sounds like Minnesota’s last Senate race. Keep counting until a liberal hack wins.


    May 9, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    • No, it’s not the same, Peggy. What we have here is one county where there have been systemic problems going on since 2004. Nothing was done — at all — until this year. There were other very close elections, including one that triggered a recount that would’ve been paid for by the state had the challenger, Kathleen Falk, asked for it. She didn’t, and now it turns out that most likely she would’ve won in 2006 had she just known what we know now — that Waukesha County has systemic problems.

      We may end up having to entirely _re-vote_ all because of this one messed-up county.

      I’m sure every County Clerk in the state aside from Kathy Nickolaus herself is upset with Kathy Nickolaus for making them look bad (Kathy Nickolaus being the County Clerk in Waukesha County, of course). And yes, while it can be said that the Government Accountability Board should’ve done something _years ago_ because of the huge messes that have been going on since 2004 (see earlier blog posts for details), they didn’t. And if not for JoAnne Kloppenburg’s campaign, most Wisconsin residents would still be in the dark about this one county that’s all messed up and that’s not been following the proper procedures for vote-counting _for years_.

      At this point it’s not about Kloppenburg v. Prosser to me. It’s about who actually won that county, and with what actual vote total (because Waukesha County is heavily red, it’s unlikely that Kloppenburg won, but the margin of victory might be significantly lower than reported once Kathy Nickolaus realized she “hadn’t (properly) counted the votes.” The rest of the state has some minor problems with the count but nothing like the systematic and huge messes going on in Waukesha County, where this one gal, Kathy Nickolaus, actually used to work for David Prosser when he was the Republican Assembly Leader (the Assembly is the Wisconsin lower house, the equivalent of the US House of Reps, so being the Speaker of the Assembly is a very powerful position). So things really look bad there that this one county is _so_ messed up — I don’t know anyone who’s happy about this gal and her actions, because at best she personifies incompetence on the grand scale, and at worst, well — she’s going to end up in jail if they can prove fraud.

      My best guess is that if they can prove fraud, the only choice we in WI have is to entirely re-vote. And if they cannot prove fraud, then you may be right in one thing — we’re looking at lawsuit after lawsuit, just as you all did in Minnesota, though the reasoning here I believe would be far stronger as it’s due to what, exactly, happened in this one really heavily messed-up county where hundreds of violations have already been logged (by _both_ sides, not just by Kloppenburg’s) and they’re only 1/3, at best, of the way through the actual vote counting.

      Barb Caffrey

      May 9, 2011 at 9:51 pm

  2. I would like to clarify two points.

    1) This is not a mandatory recount. It is a free recount because it was within 0.5%, but it is not mandatory. It must be requested.

    2) When Falk lost in the AG race, that was also within 0.5%, and would have been free had she chose to request it (again, not mandatory, but free). That race was closer, as a %, than the current Sup. Ct. race. There were considerably more votes cast (over 2 million), and the difference was less than 9000. Falk wisely realized it was a waste of money to recount.
    Results are here:

    George Corrigan

    May 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    • George, you are correct, of course. It’s a recount the state is paying for. My reason for calling it “Mandatory” may not have completely made it through — it’s that I really and firmly believe we have systemic problems going on, mostly in Waukesha, but some state-wide, with how we conduct elections in Wisconsin. I call this a “mandatory recount” because we have to believe if we’re going to have elections that the votes being counted are 1) the actual votes in the first place, 2) are being counted accurately, and 3) that we can trust our County Clerks to do their jobs corectly.

      I believe most County Clerks can indeed be trusted (though I still believe in “trust, but verify” when all possible). But we still needed this recount after all of the problems in Waukesha County came to light — and they are bad, they are systemic, and they should be stopped.

      Thank you for further information about the Kathleen Falk-J.B. Van Hollen race in 2006.

      Did you read my blog, which, granted, refers to other blogs but relies on the hard information being given by Waukesha County’s own Web page itself, where there were more *ballots* cast in that race than there were actual voters in the county?

      If I were Falk, I’d be kicking myself, because that’s a huge problem. And the GAB did _nothing_ — not anything at all — to rectify it. Nor did the GAB do anything about Waukesha County’s report that 97.63% of the eligible voters came out in 2004. Nor did the GAB do anything about the really suspect amount of people who registered to vote in ’05 . . . there’s something deeply and badly wrong going on there that seems to go way beyond gross neglect and incompetence, and I for one would like to know what it is. I believe it’s past time the GAB got off its high horse and actually did its job, and found out what on Earth is going on in Waukesha County and put a stop to it, pronto.

      Under these circumstances, I do not believe it’s a waste of money to do a recount, considering the really huge amount of problems in Waukesha County. I doubt JoAnne Kloppenburg can win this particular race. But she can at least restore some faith that our elections matter, even when it comes to Waukesha County.

      In the future I’ll probably put “mandatory recount” in quotation marks, which should help avoid any other possible confusion — because trust me, I know why this is happening, and it’s all because of whatever has gone on in Waukesha County for the past seven years, minimum, culminating in the huge mess they have now because the GAB didn’t step in and stop it long before.

      Barb Caffrey

      May 12, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      • No doubt Nicholaus should go. And no doubt the system can be improved. The problem is some people are trying to make this into fraud, without giving a credible description of what the fraud was. The biggest fraud would be if thousands of Waukesha votes are not counted. I fear Kloppenburg will ask for that to happen.

        She has three choices -the original vote count, the recount, or don’t count them at all. Revoting is not a statutory option. Not counting votes would be a huge fraud, and would show she is not trying to improve the process. It would show she is trying to game they system. Let hope she focuses on improving the system, not winning by throwing out thousands of votes.

        I have heard no plausible description of fraud that occurred. The votes were counted by election night by people other than Nichalaus. Those total were recorded on election night. The recount is confirming those totals. I just can’t see what fraud could have occurred. The initial count occurred before the bags were sealed, so nothing that happened after (bags pooching open or votes not entered into the spreadsheet) affects that initial count.

        Here is what I see:
        Waukesha County voted at an expected turnout (based on history)
        The % each candidate received in Waukesha County was as expected (based on history)
        The votes counted on election night are the same as the votes counted in the recount.
        The county clerk has screwed up at least three times in major ways, although neither affected the votes reported for a candidate

        Based on that, it makes sens for Kloppenburg to focus on getting rid of Nicholaus, not on throwing out votes. What will she do?

        Falk did nothing in 2006 because it wasn’t an issue. The total votes for each ward, when tallied up, give the correct number of votes. Its pretty clear that in 2006 about 175K votes were cast. (Add them up from the link below, I did) The county clerk was wrong when she entered 157K — she is obviously incompetent and should be recalled. I don’t know if she added wrong, forgot to include some, or has some other problem. But there is no evidence of more votes counted than cast if you look at local totals. 175K cast, 175K counted.

        George Corrigan

        May 13, 2011 at 7:34 am

  3. George, thanks for adding up all the votes from the actual wards. That helps. I agree Kathy Nickolaus is incompetent. The things I’m the most worried about go back many years now — seven, to be exact — and it all goes back, in my mind, to 2005 and that really high — unusually high — amount of voters that supposedly moved into the district. Me, if I were Kloppenburg’s folks, I’d investigate _that_. Who are these people and have they actually voted? And if so, _where_ have they voted, or have they always voted absentee? Because then you could prove there was election fraud — right there, right then — if that block of voters (and wasn’t it close to 50,000 new people registered in 2005, an off-year for elections, that has never been explained?) does not check out.

    See, if those 50,000 people really _are_ people, then we’re OK. Prosser won fairly and that’s that. The vote totals stand with minor changes here and there that occur in every district with voting machines — some things just aren’t counted accurately for whatever reason — and that’s that.

    But if those 50,000 folks who were registered in ’05 have never actually voted in person — say, maybe a few of ’em did, but the rest never did and always voted absentee at the County Clerk’s office? Then we have fraud. Guaranteed, unadulterated fraud. Gaming the system.

    And I, for one, do _not_ believe Waukesha County went out with a 97.63% turnout in 2004. (Do you?)

    I’m glad, though, that the 2006 votes did add up. (Once again, what Falk’s people would’ve needed to do is what Kloppenburg’s should do right now. Go back to ’05, and check over every single last person who actually registered to vote. Make sure those folks _are_ voting, and find out _from where_. It is inconceivable to me that all 50,000 of those people who registered to vote in an off-year — after ’04, where it was a hotly-contested election, and only something like 4K people went out to register to vote — are legitimate voters. Or have voted in every election (even if, say, all 50,000 of ’em were legit, there are always some people who do not vote).

    What I want, George, is for all the legitimate voters to be counted. Whether they’re in Waukesha County or anywhere else, people who went out to vote in good faith should be counted. But any possible election fraud that may have been committed should *not* count.

    That’s where I’m at, and I think the only way to really find that at this point is go back to that suspicious 2005 voter registration total and find out what’s really going on there.

    Barb Caffrey

    May 13, 2011 at 7:42 pm

  4. I think you are making a case for voter ID, which would stop the sort of thing you suggest happened in Waukesha.. But, I think the numbers don’t support any claim of over voting there.

    Voter turnout is usually (who knows in Waukesha because their clerk is incompetent) calculated by comparing the current vote to the registrations before election day. Since we have same day registration, people who register one election day can skew turnout. In 2004 their were some wards (statewide) that had greater than 100% turnout because of the large number of same day voters. that didn’t mean fraud. It meant a high turnout rate, and then a large number of first time voters.

    Then, those appear as new registrations for the next election. If 50K people vote for the first time in a presidential election, it looks like a huge bump in registrations for the next spring primary, even though they actually registered when they voted in Nov.

    Compare the votes for a few counties over the past decade, and you will see Waukesha looks pretty normal.

    Here are the votes cast in the 2004 & 200 8 presidential races, the 2010 governor, and the supreme court this year. % change fromt he prior year are in parens.

    Brown County – 108K, 123K (+14%), 125K (+1%), 88K (-29%), 60K (-31%)

    Dane County – 233K, 274K (+18%), 282K (+3%), 220K (-22%), 182K (-17%)

    Milwaukee – 434K, 482K (+11%), 475K (-1%), 341K (-28%), 229K (-33%)

    Outagamie – 76K, 90K (+19%), 92K (+2%), 65K (-29%), 44K (-33%)

    Waukesha – 204K, 230K (+13%), 233K (+1%), 188K (-19%), 125K (-33%)

    The only real outlier seems to be that Dane had a smaller drop off than the other counties. But this is not surprising, given the concentration of state employees in Dane.

    But, if you think Waukesha had “extra” votes in 2004, then Dane, Outagamie, and brown did also. There was no huge unexplained drop off indicative of fraudulent registrations (in any county).

    I know people throw out that 99% turnout, but its a red herring that will be used to make voter ID even more strict. You need to look at how it is calculated to see if it is what it seems.

    Compare the results statewide

    George Corrigan

    May 16, 2011 at 9:56 am

    • OK, George, that makes sense also.

      As I said, what I’d do with those 50K new voters in ’05 is check them all out. See who’s voted again, and where. And see if any of ’em were inactive after the ’04 election — I realize there are some folks who only vote in big Presidential years, mind you, so we have _six years_ since then to see if any of them have voted, and once again, where.

      What I am concerned about are people who’ve always and only voted in front of the County Clerk. I’d not care so much in other counties as I believe we have proven that most of the rest of the 72 counties in Wisconsin are honest — I *do* care about these because of Kathy Nickolaus’s checkered past. I’d especially be looking for people who didn’t vote since the ’04 election (but were counted as new registrants in ’05; I really thought they put them all in the ’04 year, but I’ll take your word for it that sometimes they don’t), skipped ’08, skipped ’10, but somehow voted in this judicial election — those are the folks I’d be looking at.

      And I’m sure there’s a way to find it out, but I don’t have the credentials to go after it — a newspaper should, though, to see if there really is a story there.

      As for Voter ID, it’s only as good as the people checking the IDs. What I suspect may have happened is that Kathy Nickolaus has perhaps padded the rolls — and for all I know, she may well have had “phantom voters” voting for the last umpteen elections. (But I’d look in ’05 because that’s the most suspect year, and do what I suggested, first. Then I’d look at the pattern of ’em overall and go and check actual records; how many of these folks actually still live at these addresses?)

      Once again, though, the GAB should’ve been looking into this gal’s conduct (Kathy Nickolaus) as she’s been extremely incompetent, screwing up election after election, for the past six-plus years at least. They didn’t do it, and because they didn’t do it, that’s why we are at this pass. I definitely blame the GAB for all of this and feel they have been just as incompetent as Kathy Nickolaus; they are the stewards of our system of fair and free elections and they have, until this year, fallen down on the job. Big-time.

      Barb Caffrey

      May 16, 2011 at 9:49 pm

      • The GAB can look into Nicholaus, but Kloppenburg’s role in this recount is limited to what the law allows. She can only present evidence to the judge that was presented to the canvassing board. She certainly cannot present evidence about 2004. If she thinks someone has registered improperly, she should have raised it already. I presume she did not because she doesn’t have that evidence. Statistically, the number of votes from 2000 to today is consistent with other counties. Its clear Nicholaus has screwed up several times, but there is no evidence of too many voters, etc.

        I don’t see any action the GAB should have taken, that they have not. They looked at the fiasco on election night, found the problem (reporting, not counting). they have begin to loook into the past, but have limited resources and have deadlines to meet for the current recount, as well as the recalls. What would you have them do differently?

        I’d say the people of Waukesha County, who can’t even get someone (form either party) to run against an incumbent have to get it together.

        BTW – If you want to check the registrations rolls, you don’t need credentials. Simply ask to see the rolls in 2004 and 2005, as well as the list of who voted. It is all public record, and they will give it to you (they have to under FOIA).

        They might even have the names of those added in 2004-2005 (as opposed to all registered voters). With so many added, a small sample (200, e.g., should be easy to find and check other public records to see if they are real voters). If I thought there were 50K extra voters you can bet I would be doing some digging looking for them.

        George Corrigan

        May 19, 2011 at 3:02 pm

  5. Hi, George.

    I wish I had the time to go up to Waukesha and do that, then . . . maybe that’s something someone else more able-bodied than me could do. But I appreciate knowing that; I definitely think that’s where the fraud is, if there is any to be found.

    I realize that the pattern of voters makes sense. That’s why I really think the fraud, if there is any, lies elsewhere.

    I’d still run Kathy Nickolaus out of town on a rail and I’d be very, very angry if I lived in Waukesha County regardless of party; that woman is incompetent and has been making $67,000 per year screwing up. Most people would’ve been fired. Even elected officials often get voted out with this level of incompetence, yet the Rs didn’t say anything — they let her stay in there and that, to my mind, is also suspicious. The statewide Rs put her there, then no one on the local level was allowed to replace her; I don’t think she’s even faced a contested primary since she got there, did she? (Certainly not in the last six years.)

    At any rate, perhaps that’s something I can do, or someone who gets around better than I do with my cane and assorted health issues, down the line. But for now, I agree with you that Kloppenburg and her campaign are limited in what they can do. They can, and probably will, make the point that Waukesha’s vote totals didn’t match the poll records (because for the most part, they didn’t); there were multiple problems with torn bags, or totals that were written in before hand or afterward, all sorts of problems. Which means that perhaps Waukesha County will have to re-vote, though the likelihood of the state re-voting is very low.

    What really stinks, George, is that nationwide, we Wisconsinites are looked at as a bunch of rubes due first to Scott Walker’s conduct (not just what he did, but *how* he did it, and his pals the Fitzgerald brothers, too, and don’t forget Glenn Grothman in all this — his comments on Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC show didn’t help *any*), and now Waukesha County’s complete fiasco here. Nickolaus deserves to be fired, and I really hope she will be; she should at minimum be recalled and voted out. But that will not rehabilitate our reputation in WI; we voters didn’t do anything wrong no matter who we voted for — and we don’t deserve to now feel as though our elections don’t really matter, though I, for one, *do* feel that way due to the actions of Kathy Nickolaus in particular and Waukesha County in general.

    Barb Caffrey

    May 20, 2011 at 7:42 pm

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