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Wisconsin judicial race turns on error

Fri., April 8, 2011, midnight

Incumbent leads after votes found

A conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justice is likely to keep his job after a county clerk announced Thursday that she found 7,500 more votes for him, putting the incumbent ahead of a challenger who declared victory on Wednesday.

The election drew national attention because it was seen as a referendum on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights, which sparked huge protests and has been put on hold by a judge.

Unofficial tallies Wednesday had put JoAnne Kloppenburg , an assistant state attorney general, 204 votes ahead of Justice David Prosser. But as county canvassing boards began double-checking totals Thursday, the margin shifted.

Then Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus announced that she had left out the 14,315 votes cast in the city of Brookfield in the totals she released Tuesday night. Prosser added 7,403 votes and gained more than 100 elsewhere in the county, putting him slightly ahead of Kloppenburg.

“This is human error, which I apologize for,” said Nickolaus, a Republican.

Nickolaus has been criticized for keeping election data on private office computers that are not part of the county network. She said the error had nothing to do with that. The mistake was discovered during an open meeting of the county canvassing board, which was attended by at least one Democrat, Ramona Kitzinger.

Kitzinger said Nickolaus was telling the truth.

“We went over everything and made sure that all the numbers jived up, and they did,” Kitzinger said.

Liberal groups were stunned by Thursday’s announcement.

“There is a history of secrecy and partisanship surrounding the Waukesha County clerk and there remain unanswered questions,” said Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, which backed Kloppenburg.

Kloppenburg’s campaign manager demanded a full explanation of how the error occurred. Melissa Mulliken said an open records request for all relevant documents would be filed.


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