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Wis. Corrects Vote Error, Giving Incumbent Justice Prosser the Lead

Apr 7, 2011 – 7:36 PM
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Joe Petrie and Lisa Sink

In a development that instantly changed the race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, revised vote totals for Waukesha County released this evening show that incumbent Justice David Prosser picked up more than 7,500 voters over challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg.

The additional votes almost certainly will give Prosser the victory in the heated race for the high court. As of early afternoon, Kloppenburg had been ahead in the race, according to totals compiled by The Associated Press.

The additional votes for Prosser were found after it was determined that all the votes for the city of Brookfield were not included in the initial counts the county provided to The Associated Press, which has been maintaining a statewide tally of votes.

The revised figures show Prosser with 11,008 more votes than were initially recorded for him, while Kloppenburg picked up 3,426 more votes. The net result is an additional 7,582 votes for the incumbent.

Earlier in the day, unofficial results compiled by The Associated Press had Kloppenburg winning by 244 votes.

At a press conference this evening, a tearful Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus accepted blame for the error.

Nickolaus said she forgot to press "save" while entering the numbers into a database and, because the turnout was so large, the missing votes didn't get noticed.

"It's important to stress this isn't a case of extra votes or extra ballots being found," she said. "This is error, which I apologize for, which is common in this process."

Nickolaus said the county's Board of Canvassers has been meeting since noon Wednesday and the error was found Wednesday. However, she didn't report it until today in order to verify that it did happen.

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Brookfield City Clerk Kristine Schmidt said this evening that she had not been notified by the county of any vote reporting problems.

"The votes that I had on Tuesday night, the votes I reported to the county clerk on Tuesday night, and the votes I turned over to the county clerk on Wednesday were the same numbers in each instance," Schmidt said.

"What they did with those votes afterward I can't answer," she added.

Prosser gained 10,859 votes from Brookfield residents, or 7,403 more than challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, who had 3,456 votes in the city of Brookfield.

In addition to the Brookfield snafu, an additional 200 votes have been found in New Berlin's Ward 12, Nickolaus said earlier in the day.

She said there was also an error in the town of Lisbon, which reduced the vote totals for both candidates. The Lisbon changes resulted in a loss of 206 votes for Prosser and 35 votes for Kloppenburg.

Nickolaus said she hasn't consulted a lawyer about this issue and would not comment further on potential legal ramifications because of the error.

Nickolaus came under fire from the Waukesha County Board in the past year for putting election information on her personal computer instead of using county equipment. She said today this error occurred on the county system and had nothing to do with the issue related to her use of a private computer.

In Brookfield, one woman expressed concern that her vote was not counted by the machine after she initially marked her ballot with a red pen she found in the polling station, according to the city clerk's office.

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Schmidt said, however, she believes the vote was counted because the machine otherwise would have kicked the ballot back out with an error message.

The woman came to City Hall today to report concerns about her vote Tuesday at the Dixon Elementary School polling site. According to Schmidt:

The woman said she used a red pen she found at the voting station but then stopped and asked poll workers if red would register. They told her to switch to a black pen and write with black over the red marks. The machine accepted the ballot, but the woman said she did not hear the usual beep that sounds after the ballot enters the machine.

Schmidt said the site might have been too noisy to hear the beep.
Filed under: Nation, Politics