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Officials in Waukesha County on Thursday said a final review of paperwork and records from a closely watched Wisconsin Supreme Court election uncovered thousands of uncounted votes, a potentially stunning development that could upend the contest.
Unofficial returns on Wednesday gave the union-backed challenger, JoAnne Kloppenburg, a narrow 204-vote statewide lead over Republican David Prosser.
Prior to the election, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus was heavily criticized for her decision to keep the county results on an antiquated personal computer, rather than upgrade to a new data system being utilized statewide. Nickolaus cited security concerns for keeping the data herself - yet when she reported the data, it did not include the City of Brookfield, whose residents cast nearly 14,000 votes.
Questions were immediately raised about the new announcement. As Schneider wrote, prior to the election, Nickolaus "was heavily criticized for her decision to keep the county results on an antiquated personal computer, rather than upgrade to a new data system being utilized statewide."
Added Schneider: "Nickolaus cited security concerns for keeping the data herself -- yet when she reported the data, it did not include the City of Brookfield, whose residents cast nearly 14,000 votes."
The Waukesha County Board also heavily criticized the clerk after she brushed aside their recommendations for improving election security. At one point during a hearing in January, board chairman Jim Dwyer grew exasperated with Nickolaus and said, "There really is nothing funny about this, Kathy. Don't sit there and grin when I'm explaining what this is about."
UPDATE: 9:17 p.m. -- For 13 years, Nickolaus worked for the Wisconsin State Assembly Republican Caucus as a data analyst and computer specialist. She resigned in May 2002. [AP, 6/3/02]
From 1989-1994, Prosser served as Minority Leader. From 1995-1996, he was Speaker. Nickolaus was a staff member during this time. As Wisconsin State Journal reporter Mary Spicuzza noted on Twitter, "Kathy Nickolaus worked for Assembly Republican Caucus when Prosser was Speaker. Caucus is controlled by speaker, so he is her former boss."
UPDATE: 9:45 p.m. -- The Wisconsin State Journal reports:
In 2001, Nickolaus was granted immunity to testify about her role as a computer analyst for the Assembly Republican Caucus, then under investigation -- along with the Senate Republican Caucus and the Democratic caucuses for both houses -- for using state resources to secretly run campaigns.
Nickolaus, a seven-year employee of the ARC, headed up an effort to develop a computer program that averaged the performance of Republicans in statewide races by ward.