Groups want hand recount of Wis. SC votes

Jessica M. Karmasek Apr. 13, 2011, 2:17pm


MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - Two organizations are calling on Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg to petition for a hand recount of those votes cast in last week's hotly contested state Supreme Court election.

Velvet Revolution and Protect Our Elections, in a joint news release Wednesday, pointed to Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus' admitted omission of thousands of votes from the city of Brookfield.

The city sent its results to 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 said last week. "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 incumbent Justice David Prosser, and has previously faced criticism for her handling of elections.

But the organizations also point to a history of inaccurate vote tabulation by electronic voting machines in the state, and elsewhere in the nation.

"There is currently no basis for public confidence in the election results," the two groups said.

As of 4 p.m. last Wednesday, a final, unofficial vote count had showed Kloppenburg with 204 more votes than Prosser. However, the next day, Nickolaus revealed her error. According to unofficial tallies, Prosser now has a 7,500-vote lead over his opponent.

"Given the razor-thin margin of the reported results of the April 5 election, the extraordinary events in Waukesha County, and the known vulnerabilities to both malfunction and malfeasance of the tabulation systems used in the state, all with the background of the heightened public interest in this election, only a fully public, manual hand-count of all paper ballots cast in last Tuesday's Supreme Court election can begin to ensure the citizenry of accurate results and restore confidence in their electoral system," Project Coordinator Emily Levy said in a statement on behalf of both organizations.

This is especially important, Levy added, given that there are likely to be multiple recall elections, conducted on the same systems, in rapid succession in the months ahead -- and all as a precursor to the Presidential cycle next year.

Both organizations say Wisconsin voters "need Kloppenburg's representation now."

"Her action on behalf of the voters of all parties may indeed be as important an act for justice as any she might take in the role of Supreme Court Justice," they said.

The two groups aren't the only ones to request the election get another look.

On Friday, Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking for a federal investigation into the "questionable handling" of votes in the Supreme Court race.

"To assure public confidence in our democratic election process and guarantee that votes are fairly counted and reported," Baldwin asked Holder to assign the Justice Department Public Integrity Section, which oversees the federal prosecution of election crimes, to investigate the matter.

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.

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

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