MADISON, Wis. - Citizen Action of Wisconsin demanded today "an immediate federal investigation and immediate impoundment of all computer equipment, ballots and other relevant evidence needed to verify a fair vote count in Waukesha County, Wisconsin."
Waukesha County's Republican Clerk, Kathy Nickolaus, said late yesterday that, 29 hours earlier, she had discovered 14,000 votes that now put pro-Gov.-Walker state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser 7,500 votes ahead of Joanne Kloppenburg, the challenger who declared victory after initial tallies had her 204 votes ahead.
The explosive announcement, if it stands, gives Prosser a big enough lead in the race for the state high court race that Kloppenburg would be forced to pay the full cost of any recount.
The Capital Times in Madison, also calling for a federal probe, said Nickolaus "has a history of secretive and erratic handling of election results. Nickolaus claims that it was 'human error' that caused her to 'lose' the 14,000 votes from Brookfield on her personal computer where she had secreted away the data. Yet she apparently knew of the 'mistake' for 29 hours before reporting it and then handed the information off to conservative bloggers and talk-radio personalities."
Citizen Action says the federal investigation should include "an accounting of all communications by Nickolaus and anyone in the Waukesha clerk's office with all outside actors, and all interested parties to the election dispute." The group is also demanding a full recount, no matter what the eventual margin of victory or defeat. "Whether David Prosser or JoAnne Kloppenburg is elected, the only way that the high court will retain even a shred of credibility is if every ballot is recounted, every tabulation is reviewed and every citizen in certain that this election was legitimate."
Nickolaus admits that she took the election data collection and storage system off the county's computer network and put it on stand-alone computers accessible only in her office. She said she did this for "security reasons. What it gave me was good security of the elections from start to finish, without the ability of someone unauthorized to be involved."
Director of Administration Norman Cummings said because Nickolaus has kept other officals out of the loop, the county's information technology specialists have not been able to verify Niclolaus's 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 asked.
When she dropped her bombshell yesterday Nickolaus said she failed to save on her computer and then report 14,315 votes in the city of Brookfield, omitting them entirely in an unofficial total she released after Tuesday's election.
"It's not unusual in any big election for a few ballots to go missing or not get counted," said Mike Hall who has been covering events in Wisconsin for the AFL-CIO's website. "But when a county clerk suddenly announces the discovery of more than 14,000 votes from an entire city two days after an election decided by just 204 votes - with more than 10,000 going to the loser - that's hard to fathom. But she wants us to believe that's what happened in the race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court between incumbent and Gov. Scott Walker favorite David Prosser and JoAnne Kloppenburg, an assistant attorney general. She says the newly found votes went 10,859 to Prosser and 3,456 for Kloppenburg, giving Prosser a 7,582 vote margin."
Kloppenburg campaign manager Melissa Mulliken said, "Wisconsin voters deserve a full explanation of how and why these 14,000 votes from an entire city were missed. To that end, we are filing open records requests for all relevant documentation related to the reporting of election results in Waukesha County."
Wisconsin's former attorney general, Peg Lautenschlager, said, "This requires a full inquiry and explanation."
The "found" votes are only the latest in a string of suspicious and undemocratic maneuvers by Wisconsin Republicans. They held a 17-second tally at the Capitol here that denied most Assembly Democrats even a chance to vote on Walker's anti-labor agenda. Then there were GOP threats to deny Democratic state senators legislative voting rights and, in violation of a court order, the shuttering of the Capitol to demonstrators. Then there was passage of a bill to remove collective bargaining rights of workers in violation of open meetings laws and flagrant violations by the governor and Republican lawmakers of several court orders to delay implementation of that law.
Given this history, unions and their allies note, investigations into this latest scandal cannot be left to Wisconsin authorities accountable to the governor. A federal probe, they say, is the only way to go.