There are too many questions surrounding the “Waukesha Surprise” that came out yesterday, involving the “discovery” of tens of thousands of votes that netted sitting Supreme Court Justice David Prosser a 7,000+ lead over challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg.
Kathy Nickolaus’ troubled history, both during her time as a county clerk and as a staffer within the State Assembly, doesn’t inspire much confidence in her ability to count votes efficiently or correctly.
Nickolaus had previously served under Justice Prosser when he was Speaker of the Assembly back in the mid-90s. That conflict of interest wouldn’t ordinarily matter, so long as she performed her job function in an impartial way. But under the circumstances that we now find ourselves in, and given her involvement in the state caucus controversy, it suddenly becomes something to think about for the average voter.
Whether by her own incompetence, malfeasance, or just dumb luck, Nickolaus has failed in more ways than one within her leadership role in the office of the County Clerk.
Her stringent belief that she didn’t need to backup her personal computer -- which she used to tally the county’s election results -- with the network computers at the County Clerk’s office in Waukesha raises even more questions. During a hearing last year on the very subject, it was evident that Nickolaus didn’t think the issue was serious -- the record shows she "grinned" when she was told otherwise -- and that she ultimately didn’t put recommendations into place when it was suggested she backup her files.
In all likelihood, this isn’t anything more than what it appears to be: a screw-up by someone who probably shouldn’t be in the job she’s holding in the first place. Kathy Nickolaus has failed her county as well as her state in providing a transparent and accurate vote count on Election Day. The real losers in this situation are the voters within her county and statewide, especially those that can’t in good conscience accept the results as they appear to be due to the order of events and the character of the woman who delivered them more than a full day late.
For the legitimacy of our elections, to ensure that everyone (both left and right) believes the results that came in this past Tuesday (or Thursday, it seems), a full investigation and hand recount within Waukesha County is not only warranted but quite possibly required. Without the assurances of an impartial body, we’re going to see a great number of Wisconsinites who won’t recognize these elections as true, and who may also lose faith in our elections process further down the road.
That’s a situation we simply cannot afford to find ourselves in, for without fair and responsible elections, our state cannot function with the full faith and support of its people. There are plenty of liberals and conservatives who will respect the results of this election, win or lose, so long as they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the eventual outcome is the legitimate preference of the people.