Election Returns: What Went On in Waukesha?
After Hours of Silence, Embattled Clerk Reports Wildly-High Turnout in Prosser's Top County
MADISON, Wis. — As counties statewide move to certify Tuesday’s shocking upset victory by JoAnne Kloppenburg over heavily-favored David Prosser, unanswered questions remain about returns from Tuesday night in Waukesha County — the top-performing county in the state for Scott Walker’s self-proclaimed “complement” on the Supreme Court.
“Wisconsin deserves elections that are fair, clean and transparent,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “There is a history of secrecy and partisanship surrounding the Waukesha County Clerk and there remain unanswered questions.”
Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, a former staffer for the Assembly Republican Caucus, has been sharply criticized in recent months for her handling of recent elections. Even the archly-conservative Waukesha County Board has sharply condemned Nickolaus after past elections, demanding an immediate audit of her practices following ominous red-flags that emerged regarding her lack of oversight, failure to create backup files and her stubborn insistence to “keep everything secret.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/18/10; 1/17/11]
The County auditors said it was eminently possible — including historical precedent — for Nickolaus or a rogue employee to tamper with data. Why? Nickolaus insists on controlling password access and has unilaterally decided to move sensitive files, like election results, onto her personal computer.
Nickolaus has actually scoffed at complying with impartial audits, thumbing her nose at critics. A move that drew a sharp reaction at the time from the County Board Chair:
“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.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/18/2010; 1/17/2011]
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.