A consultant’s report traces problems in reporting Waukesha County election results directly to mistakes by outgoing County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus – mistakes that will cost county taxpayers more than a quarter of a million dollars to fix. Nickolaus had promised to post timely results online and update them periodically for the April 3 election. But the public didn’t learn the results of contested local races for hours, while reporters and election reporting service representatives were forced to tabulate the vote totals themselves from long paper tapes hanging on the walls of a meeting room. The embattled county clerk already was under scrutiny because of her role in the 2011 state Supreme Court race, when she left the entire city of Brookfield out of countywide vote totals. When those 14,000 votes were added in, two days after the election, Justice David Prosser had won by 7,000 votes, instead of narrowly losing to Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, as the original count showed. But the uncertainty over the Waukesha County vote led to a statewide recount that confirmed Prosser’s victory.
Nickolaus, a Republican, agreed to withdraw from directly overseeing this year’s gubernatorial recall election after County Executive Dan Vrakas, a former GOP legislator, threatened to call for her resignation if she didn’t hand off her election duties. She also announced she would not seek re-election in No vember. After the April election, Vrakas told the county Department of Administration to hire a consultant “to get to the bottom of what the problems were,” said Norm Cummings, director of administration. The full report from SysLogic Inc., a Brookfield consulting firm, was not immediately available Monday, but some of its findings are briefly summarized in a funding measure being considered by the County Board.
SysLogic linked the April problems to an upgrade that Nickolaus ordered in the county’s election software before the balloting. The firm found that Nickolaus was the only person trained to program the upgraded software, but she “did not follow the proper protocol, resulting in the failure of the functionality to compile election results,” the fund transfer ordinance says. At the time, Nickolaus had said that when her staff tried to upload results from voting machine memory packs into the reporting program, it wouldn’t work. “We were shocked,” she said, because she and her staff had tested the reporting program “many times.”