Waukesha County will spend more than $256,000 to fix problems with election procedures. A committee unanimously approved the spending Tuesday, which is expected to receive a vote before the Waukesha County Board next week. The decision comes after a consultant’s report identified several factors behind problems with last year’s State Supreme Court election and the presidential primary earlier this year. The consultant said there was no back-up process for reconciling Election Night totals in the Supreme Court election, which was why Clerk Kathy Nickolaus failed to include 14,000 votes from Brookfield in her countywide totals. That mistake led to a statewide recount in a close contest.
Sometime after final testing of Waukesha County’s election software – but before the April election – County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus mysteriously changed something in her office’s computer programming, according to a consulting firm’s report released Tuesday. Only Nickolaus knows what she did. The consultants can’t figure it out, and she’s not talking. But whatever she did, it caused a breakdown in reporting election results that will cost county taxpayers $256,300 to fix, the report says. And that’s not the only money that Waukesha County will have to spend to get its election systems operating properly, County Executive Dan Vrakas said Tuesday. Aging hardware is out of compliance with federal standards and nearing the end of its useful life, the report says. That equipment was supposed to be replaced in 2009, but Nickolaus killed the project because county purchasing officials wouldn’t let her award a no-bid contract, said Norm Cummings, county director of administration. Now Vrakas and the County Board will need to spend unknown amounts of money in the 2013 and 2014 budgets to replace that equipment before the 2014 gubernatorial election, Cummings said.
Wisconsin: Who's running the election in Waukesha County? Nickolaus' recall role in question | Journal Sentinel
While Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas and his chief of staff insisted Tuesday that County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus was not the one in charge of election duties for the recall election, she appeared to be at the helm. Nickolaus refused to respond to questions in her office, turning her back and closing her office door while a reporter waited at a service counter. Her deputy, Kelly Yaeger, didn’t respond, either. Nickolaus was observed passing out election supplies to local clerks leading up to Tuesday’s election, and she’s the one who fielded questions Tuesday from the field, said Gina Kozlik, Waukesha’s deputy clerk-treasurer. Shawn Lundie, Vrakas’ chief of staff, said he was confident procedures put in place with Yaeger would ensure smooth reporting of votes Tuesday night. Vote counting in the county clerk’s office appeared to go smoothly – an assessment confirmed by Lundie. About 80% of the vote was reported by about 10 p.m.
Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, widely criticized over the conduct of elections in her county, announced Saturday she has decided not to seek re-election in November. But the embattled clerk said in a prepared statement that she would not relinquish “any authority or responsibility” for upcoming elections through the end of her term because “I am the Waukesha County constitutional officer charged with the responsibility of elections.” After problems in the election earlier this month, Nickolaus reportedly agreed under pressure from County Executive Dan Vrakas to cede election responsibilities to her deputy for the upcoming recall races. Her campaign manager said Saturday she “never ever agreed to hand over the responsibility given to her constitutionally as clerk” to administer the elections. “Kathy is still in charge,” said the manager, Dan Hunt, adding Nickolaus was unavailable for comment.
Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board announces plan to speed Waukesha election reports | JSOnline
Vote results from throughout Waukesha County should be available online more quickly in the recall elections because municipal clerks will be entering unofficial results directly into a state vote canvass reporting system, rather than leaving it to the county clerk’s staff. Those results will simultaneously be available to the Waukesha County clerk’s office, which is still responsible for posting results on election night. In a statement Tuesday, Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel for the Government Accountability Board, said the agency created Wisconsin’s canvass reporting system using a federal grant in 2010 so county clerks could use it to report canvass results – the official totals that are checked several days after an election – to the state electronically. However, the Web-based system was built with a tool for municipal clerks to enter unofficial results on election night. Kennedy said all Waukesha County municipal clerks will be asked to use that tool for the May 8 primaries and the June 5 recalls.
Voting Blogs: Rock, Paper, Local: County Officials Still Wield Great Influence Over Elections | Election Academy
Lately, the news has been full of debates and discussions about the impact on election administration of decisions made by federal and state government. These are, to be sure, important questions but two recent stories have reinforced the enduring power of local government – and in particular, local election officials. In Waukesha County, Wisconsin, embattled county clerk Kathy Nickolaus (who figured prominently in last fall’s hotly-contested campaign for the state Supreme Court) agreed to relinquish her election dutiesafter encountering difficulties with tallying the returns from the state’s April 3 primary.
Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board to help Waukesha County with election day operations | FOX6Now.com
Looking for the state training requirements to become a county clerk? There is no need to grab a pen. There are none. The details were revealed by the Government Accountability Board when asked what kind of training was required of Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus. “The state law does not have any specific training requirements for county clerks,” says GAB spokesperson Reid Magney. Nickolaus handed over election duties to her deputy clerk, after she was pressured to hand over responsibilities following a chaotic primary night. The clerk says computer software malfunctioned, which forced her office to count and check results by hand. The incident comes less than a year after Nickolaus forgot to hit the save button during the state supreme court election, which changed the result of the statewide race.
Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas said he would publicly call for County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus’ resignation unless she handed off her election duties in the upcoming recalls to her deputy clerk. Nickolaus chose the latter. She agreed to allow outside consultants and county staff to work with her deputy, Kelly Yaeger, to handle the election, Vrakas said. “The county will move swiftly to examine the election night procedures in the county clerk’s office and make changes as necessary to restore the public’s confidence in our elections,” Vrakas said in a statement late this afternoon. In an interview, Vrakas said, “I appreciate the fact that she understands the importance of restoring confidence in Waukesha County election night reporting. Swift, detailed, orderly reporting that should be available on the Internet. When given the choice to step down or step aside, she made the right decision.”
Another election, another controversy over the performance of Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus. Nickolaus may have done her re-election campaign no favors Tuesday night when her plans to post timely election results online and update them periodically for the public failed. Citizens checking for results online were left in the dark for hours after voting ended, while reporters and data collectors for election reporting services resorted to tabulating contested races from yards of paper tapes hanging on walls around a meeting room. The process was akin to reading a long grocery receipt where, in some cases, the tape stretched down the wall and onto the floor in a heap. Problems with Nickolaus’ reporting system were evident soon after the earliest municipal clerks delivered, in person as she required, the voting machine memory packs and paper tapes showing vote totals. When Nickolaus’ staff tried to upload results from the memory cards into the county clerk’s reporting program, it wouldn’t work. “We were shocked,” she said Wednesday, noting that she and her staff had tested the reporting program “many times.”
It took persistence – and a second trip to her Waukesha polling place – by a 63-year-old Waukesha woman to vote Tuesday. But she said her 87-year-old mother who couldn’t make the trip back was disenfranchised by a poll worker who asked to see a photo ID. Wisconsin’s new voter ID law was in place for the February primary but not for Tuesday’s general election after a judge ruled it was unconstitutional. The photo ID requirement is on hold while the matter is appealed. The woman, who asked not to be identified because she and her mother were embarrassed, said she ended up calling the Government Accountability Board for help. Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the board, confirmed Tuesday that the incident happened. The woman said she and her mother had moved to Waukesha last May and registered to vote at Waukesha City Hall in January. They went to their Waukesha West High School poll Tuesday but were asked to show identification – which her mother hadn’t brought with her. Her own driver’s license had an out-of-date address on it, she said. “We were listed on their friggin’ poll list,” she said, “and yet we had our names highlighted.” The poll worker said maybe they didn’t register in time, though they clearly had. Kennedy added: “I can’t think of any reason ID would have been required.”