Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus Needs To Resign Over Botched Election Results

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus needs to resign because of the statewide mess she created concerning the election returns from the State Supreme Court race.

The reasons Kathy Nickolaus needs to resign as County Clerk are multi-fold.   

Kathy Nickolaus demonstrated a lack of professionalism that is expected of an official with her responsibilities.  She has also failed to be professional over time, and in so doing helped create the chaos that now engulfs Wisconsin.  

Kathy Nickolaus is also very suspect in this vote fiasco in light of the fact she was granted immunity after a caucus scandal when she worked as an Assembly Republican Caucus Employee while David Prosser was both Minority Leader and later as Speaker of the State Assembly.

Simply put, what took place in Waukesha County reeks to the heavens!  Kathy Nickolaus must own up to the massive problem, and resign.

Late Thursday the Waukesha County clerk announced that the vote total in Tuesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race had been mistaken, and that the corrected numbers changed the outcome of the entire election.

There were 3,456 missing votes for Democratic-backed challenger Kathleen Kloppenburg and 11,059 for incumbent GOP-backed Justice David Prosser. Kloppenburg has previously been beating Prosser by just 200 votes of the roughly 1.5 million cast statewide. The new total puts Prosser on a significant path to victory, about 7,500 votes ahead of Kloppenburg.

This error seems more than fishy given the past working relationship Kathy Nickolaus has had with David Prosser.  For thirteen years Nickolaus worked for the Wisconsin State Assembly Republican Caucus as a data analyst and computer specialist.  During that time Prosser served in powerful elected positions in the State Assembly. 

Before Kathy Nicklous resigned in 2002 from her partisan job she  was granted immunity to testify about her role in the caucus.  The Republican Caucus was under investigation for using state resources (tax dollars) to secretly run campaigns.

There is no way that I buy into Kathy Nickolaus’ near-tearful explanation of how Brookfield was misplaced when counting and adding the numbers.  There is no degree of plausibility given all we know about her.  Kathy Nicklous’ partisan dealings that landed her in the legal arena makes this latest, and most unbelievable turn of events, not rising to the smell test.

Kathy Nickolaus’ lack of professionalism is underscored by the fact Waukesha County has what can only be described as an outdated and rickety means of keeping  tabs of votes cast.  She has insisted the county results be kept on an antiquated personal computer, rather than upgrade to a new data system being utilized statewide.  

When confronted about the problems in the past she smiled in face of the facts that were presented to her.

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.”

Again, what has occurred in Waukesha County regarding the court election does not meet the smell test.

Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Barca gave voice late Thursday for voters all over Wisconsin in a blunt statement.  

It is especially troubling that she waited more than 24 hours to report the startling discovery and then did so at a press conference and only after she verified the results. This makes it all the harder to challenge and audit the integrity of the vote.  

The partisan, political history of Ms. Nickolaus and the serious concerns about the quality of her performance found in an audit raises the question of whether an investigation is warranted. The public deserves to know that the votes were counted properly.

No one can relish the idea of making it clear to someone that they must step aside from a job.  But the damage that Kathy Nickolaus has done to our election process in Wisconsin is no small thing.  The people’s faith in casting a ballot has been damaged by the actions undertaken in the last 48 hours from the Waukesha County Clerk. 

It is time that Kathy Nickolaus resign her office.

The people of Waukesha County and all of Wisconsin deserve no less.

How Recount And Possible Legal Fights In Wisconsin Supreme Court Race May Play Out

Most strongly suspect that a recount is coming in light of the extremely close election results for Wisconsin State Supreme Court. 

Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg claimed victory over Justice David Prosser after an unofficial tally showed her holding the thinnest of leads. According to an unofficial tally by The Associated Press, she was up 204 votes out of nearly 1.5 million cast – a margin of 1/100th of a percent.

There are a number of twists and turns and possible ways to navigate in the days and weeks to come.    Here is a brief primer of where we might be headed.

Hang on, it is going to be  a bumy ride.

Here’s how the process would work in the coming days:

By 4 p.m. Wednesday, municipal clerks were to have delivered all their materials to the offices of county clerks around the state.

By 9 a.m. Thursday, county boards of canvassers have to start meeting and making an official report on ward-by-ward vote totals. Those reports will be sent to the Accountability Board.

The Accountability Board technically has until May 15 to certify the results, but Kennedy said a recount could begin by next week.

Once official statewide results are in, the losing candidate has three business days to decide whether to request a recount.

If a recount is requested, the Accountability Board would issue an order that it start simultaneously in counties around the state. Workers would sort through all the voting materials, double-check that they have the proper number of voters in each area, and recount ballots.

Observers could challenge ballots, which would then be set aside for further review.

About 90% of ballots are counted by running a paper document filled out by a voter through an optical scanner, Kennedy said.

Once counties complete their work on a possible recount, the new official totals would be sent to the Accountability Board again.

After any possible recount, the issue could still go to the courts.

In one twist, state law calls for Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to appoint the state judge who would hear the case if the loser of a recount in a statewide election goes to court over the outcome. Abrahamson and Prosser have clashed on the court. Prosser’s private remark calling Abrahamson a “total bitch” was the subject of a recent political ad attacking Prosser.

State law says the trial judge in the case should be a reserve judge if one is available.

“The chief justice picks the reserve judge, which of course would add controversy to what is already controversial,” said Janine Geske, a former Supreme Court justice and now a professor at Marquette University Law School.

Once there is a ruling, it may be appealed to the Court of Appeals based in Madison, a court made up of five members: Margaret Vergeront, Brian Blanchard, Gary Sherman, Paul Higginbotham and Paul Lundsten.

None of the five judges on the appeals court endorsed either candidate. Blanchard and Kloppenburg shared the same campaign manager, Melissa Mulliken.

The statute says the appeals process outlined above is the “exclusive judicial remedy” in the case of a recount dispute. It does not explicitly say whether the finding of the Court of Appeals could then be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

But Kennedy of the Accountability Board said he understands the law to mean that a decision by the court of appeals on the race could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Under Supreme Court rules, Prosser alone would decide whether to hear a case if it came before the high court. If he steps aside, that would leave six justices to hear the case and raises the possibility of a 3-3 split. In that case, the ruling by the appeals court would stand.

David Prosser Wonders If He Is a “Turd”, Lets Flush Him On April 5th

The Green Bay Press Gazette has correctly endorsed JoAnn Kloppenburg for the Supreme Court, and raises the language of  David Prosser in their editorial.  I must say I have never heard a court justice use the language that Prosser does.  After calling the Chief Justice “a bitch”, Prosser now ponders if he is a “turd”.

Time to flush the toilet on David Prosser.

Here is what the Press Gazette writes.

During her campaign, Kloppenburg has made every effort — sometimes, almost to a fault — to articulate and emphasize her independence, a quality we agree is critical for justices to rule fairly. During an interview with the Green Bay Press-Gazette editorial board, the assistant attorney general expressed a reluctance to discuss certain cases that have come before the high court — or that might — ostensibly for fear of betraying any inkling of preconceived bias. And while we understand and appreciate this emphasis on independence, Kloppenburg’s reticence puts her in danger of coming across as uninformed. We do not believe this is the case.

Further, Kloppenburg strikes us as the more levelheaded candidate, and frankly we have been troubled by some of Prosser’s statements throughout the campaign. During a meeting with the Press-Gazette editorial board, Prosser said repeatedly the Impartial Justice Act, which provides public funding for state Supreme Court candidates, was designed to oust him from office. At one point, he went so far as to call it “a law designed to get Dave Prosser,” and said he had “a target on my back.” His insistence that this is the case is unsettling.

During a tense March 21 debate at Marquette University, Prosser made an unnecessarily awkward statement about a posting on Kloppenburg’s Facebook page, inquiring whether he was the “turd” to which a poster referred. Any legitimate point Prosser, a former Republican lawmaker, may have had about the nature of the campaign was lost in this odd exchange, which we also find troubling. Taken together, statements such as these indicate Kloppenburg is the more levelheaded of the two candidates. This, combined with her experience and insistence on independence, make Kloppenburg this newspaper’s preferred candidate for the state’s high court.

Justice David Prosser Proves He Is No Longer A Cerebral Member Of Wisconsin Supreme Court

The stories have been flying around Madison for a long time concerning Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, and his blowing a gasket over internal court issues.

That the stories were numerous, and from different sources made me aware they were probably true.  What I could not come to grips with is that the David Prosser I had known in the State Capitol was so different from the one that now sits on the Court, and wants to be elected for a 10-year term.

When I knew David Prosser he was serving in the State Legislature.  To me it always seemed he was more cerebral than most others, and somehow not suited for the partisan nature of the statehouse.   There was no doubt he knew sharp elbows needed to be used in his job, but he appeared to be one that might find common ground before throwing a political grenade.

I found Prosser to have a sense of humor, and never to be ‘above himself.’    Riding in an elevator with Prosser meant a minute of good conversation, and even a smile or two.  He could chat as easily with an Assembly page as he could an elected colleague.  That is not always the case under the dome.

This opening might lead readers to think that I am going to endorse Prosser for the Supreme Court.  That could not be further from the truth.

Fact is, I am very concerned and troubled by the stories that have emerged about the character and professionalism of David Prosser, a man I truly felt was more a thinker and serious-minded jurist than the rough-and-tumble politician he has morphed into being.

This weekend a must-read newspaper article was published that allowed for the stories that Madison had heard about Justice Prosser to all of a sudden become a state-wide issue.

As the deeply divided state Supreme Court wrestled over whether to force one member off criminal cases last year, Justice David Prosser exploded at Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson behind closed doors, calling her a “bitch” and threatening to “destroy” her.

The incident, revealed in interviews as well as e-mails between justices, shows fractures on the court run even deeper than what has been revealed in public sniping in recent years. Problems got so bad that justices on both sides described the court as dysfunctional, and Prosser and others suggested bringing in a third party for help, e-mails show.

The Feb. 10, 2010, incident occurred as the court privately discussed a request to remove Justice Michael Gableman from a criminal case.

“In a fit of temper, you were screaming at the chief; calling her a ‘bitch,’ threatening her with ‘. . . I will destroy you’; and describing the means of destruction as a war against her ‘and it won’t be a ground war,’ ” Bradley wrote in a Feb. 18, 2010, e-mail to Prosser and others.

“In my view, a necessary step to address the dysfunction is to end these abusive temper tantrums. No one brought in from the outside is going to cure this aspect of the dysfunction.”

I almost dropped the newspaper as I read and learned more about the inner dynamics of the court, and the abusive language used against Chief Justice Abrahamson by David Prosser.

This is not the way the court should operate. 

This is not the type of man David Prosser once was. 

Question we all need to ask is what has happened to David Prosser?  And as a consequence does he merit another term on the court?

Perhaps the court’s work load and heavy mental rigors are starting to take their toll on this man who once looked so serene as he strolled in the Capitol.  Slight and unassuming  Prosser was once the opposite of what he has now become on the court.

No one can be pleased this has happened.

The role of the State Supreme Court with its procedures and customs, along with the faith that the citizenry must have in the decisions handed down, always makes election cycles for judges major news stories.   The caliber of candidates, and the rancor caused by huge amounts of money thrown at the races by special interests, have only added to the muck in recent years.

I thought we had witnessed everything  over the past decade when it came to court races.  Sadly, the David Prosser story is now setting a new low for court races in this state.

The obvious question Wisconsinites must ask is what type of personality, and set of characteristics do we want making legal decisions on the court?  Voters now have a need to use more than a legal framework when evaluating a decision for the April 5th ballot.

Justice David Prosser has lost my faith of being a cerebral caretaker on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Joel Winnig For Wisconsin State Supreme Court, Respects Judicial Process

I need to make one thing perfectly clear before I start to write about why I will enthusiastically vote Joel Winnig for Wisconsin State Supreme Court.   

I admit this is not how endorsements usually start.  So please bear with me.

I do not think voters should make choices via the ballot box for the Supreme Court.

I favor merit selection of court justices, as do many in this state and across the nation.  Even former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor views merit selection of state judges as a way to eliminate the undermining of the independence of the judiciary that is now taking place.

The major reason many frown on electing judges is the amount of money raised and used by special interests from both ends of the political spectrum for candidates.  At the end of the electoral process citizens have less reason to think justice is fair or balanced, or the legal decisions that govern them have not been bought and paid for by powerful interest groups.

I would like to know how all the candidates running for the high court this spring view the idea of merit selection.   That is just one of many topics that voters have a right to know.  A better informed electorate makes wiser choices on election day.

Which leads me to Joel Winnig.

Only Joel Winnig has stepped forward and proposed that instead of cash heavy ad buys on television Supreme Court candidates should engage the electorate with a debate or two.  That there has not been a positive response from the other candidates to get such a debate lined up means that ‘we the people’  end up the losers.

That is not how it should be.

Long before this race started I have paid attention to Joel Winnig.  Be it his common sense approach to topics of the day, or his personable style, Winnig seems smart and well-reasoned. 

Once Winnig announced his candidacy for the Supreme Court I started to watch closely how he walked his talk. 

That is, after all, what separates mere candidates from serious-minded individuals who seek to make a real difference if elected.

That Joel Winnig is taking public financing and operates around the idea that the court belongs to the people and not special interests made him my candidate for office.  At once!

That Winnig is not a wealthy lawyer, but a well-intentioned one who works for folks like me was another selling point for his election.  

Winnig understands the judicial process must be open and grounded in principles.  He does not abide tactics that undermines the faith citizens need to have in their justice system.  For most of us that should be a  “well, yeah”  statement.  To believe such things about the justice system should not have to be stated.  

But after the excessively expensive court races over the past few years, and the less than stellar people elected as a result of negative ads, we need a Joel Winnig  to be on the court.   We need someone to speak candidly about the flaws in the system, as we have drifted far from where the judiciary should be.  This needs to concern all of Wisconsin.

Which bring me back to the start of this blog post.

In a merit selection process a panel or board would find men and women like Joel Winnig and narrow them down to a small list to be presented to the Governor.  (Again, I have no idea how Winng feels about merit selection.)  The panel making the list would be a highly informed cross-section of the legal community in the state.    The rancor, money, and special interest components for what now passes as court campaigns would be ended. 

There are many fine legal minds like Joel Winnig in Wisconsin, but they often do not wish to enter the political arena.  Since we do not have merit selection process in this state, and probably will not for a long time, we are left to the current electoral process. 

Therefore we must look for the best person of those announced that will honor the judicial process and fairly read the law and interpret the Constitution.  I have faith that person is Joel Winnig.  I am most confident that he cares about the judical process and will honor it if elected this spring.

I ask my readers to cast a ballot for Joel Winnig on February 15, 2011.