County clerk admits error in Wis. SC vote

Jessica M. Karmasek Apr. 8, 2011, 2:44pm


MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) -- A Wisconsin county clerk revealed Thursday that she incorrectly entered vote totals in the state's hotly contested Supreme Court race.

Now, according to unofficial tallies, the incumbent Justice David Prosser has a 7,500-vote lead over opponent JoAnne Kloppenburg, The Associated Press reported.

The city of Brookfield in Waukesha County sent its results to County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, who reportedly put them in the system but forgot to save the data. She later discovered her mistake and added the missing votes again.

"This is not a case of extra votes or extra ballots being found," Nickolaus told the AP. "This is human error, which I apologize for."

Nickolaus is reportedly a Republican, has worked for a state GOP caucus that was once controlled by Prosser, and has previously faced criticism for her handling of elections, the AP reported.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, a final, unofficial vote count had showed Kloppenburg, the state's assistant attorney general, with 204 more votes than Prosser. Nearly 1.5 million votes were cast in the race.

Prosser has sat on the Court since 1998. Kloppenburg has worked as a litigator and prosecutor with the state Department of Justice since 1989.

Though the race is nonpartisan, Prosser is part of the conservative majority on the Court. A Kloppenburg win most likely would have tilted the Court to the left. Her taking the seat also might have impacted the ongoing legal challenge to Gov. Scott Walker's Budget Repair Bill.

The bill has been a source of controversy for months now, eliminating nearly all collective bargaining rights for those public employee union members. The Republican governor had proposed the bill in response to state budget deficits.

However, the law cannot go into effect because of a temporary restraining order put in place last month by Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi.

Sumi, in her original ruling March 18, will not allow Secretary of State Doug La Follette to publish the law. She says a legislative committee violated the state's Open Meetings Law when it approved a new version of the governor's budget bill on March 9.

The state Supreme Court will most likely end up deciding the issue.

It is uncertain whether Kloppenburg will seek a recount. The latest such a request can be made is April 20.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

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