Original Post:The Wisconsin Supreme Court election debacle is getting curiouser and curiouser.
To recap: Conservative incumbent judge David Prosser surged ahead last night on new vote totals from Waukesha County, a Republican stronghold. Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nikolaus said she had failed to save (and thus report) more than 14,000 votes, 10,859 of which went to Prosser. This gives Prosser a strong lead, and puts him above the margin at which the state will pay for a recount.
As it turns out, Nikolaus vote counting methods have raised eyebrows before.
From an August 2010 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article:
Nickolaus said she decided to take the election data collection and storage system off the county’s computer network – and keep it on stand-alone personal computers accessible only in her office – for security reasons.
“What it gave me was good security of the elections from start to finish, without the ability of someone unauthorised to be involved,” she said.
Nonetheless, Director of Administration Norman A. Cummings said because Nickolaus has kept them out of the loop, the county’s information technology specialists have not been able to verify Nickolaus’ claim that the system is secure from failure.
“How does anybody else in the county know, except for her verbal word, that there are backups, and that the software she has out there is performing as it should?” he said. “There’s no way I can assure that the election system is going to be fine for the next presidential election.”
Cummings stressed that the voting process at local polling places is not in question. However, municipal clerks send their election night results by dial-up modem to the county clerk, where they are tabulated and stored. That prompted Cummings’ concerns.
After the 2010 election, Cummings requested an audit, saying Nikolaus had been uncooperative with the county’s attempts to review her system. The audit found she needed to improve security and backup procedures (and stop sharing passwords).
It doesn’t help that Nikolaus had a 13-year career as a data analyst and computer specialist for the Wisconsin Assembly’s Republican Caucus. She left the post after a 2002 corruption investigation that took down five state assembly members.
In all likelihood, however, Nikolaus’ Supreme Court election mistake was just human error, as Nate Silver points out here. Doesn’t make it any less exciting.
Another Nikolaus election gaffe, this one from 2005. During a Waukesha County executive special election that year, Nikolaus sent out sample ballots marked with a vote for one of the candidates, according to an October 2005 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story.
Kloppenburg’s campaign said she plans on filing an open records request related to election results reporting in Waukesha County.