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Wisconsin: Waukesha County to spend $256,000 to tackle voting problems | Wisconsin Radio Network

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.

Full Article: Waukesha tackles voting problems.

Wisconsin: Nickolaus changed software before April election breakdown | JSOnline

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.

Full Article: Nickolaus changed software before April election breakdown - JSOnline.

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.

Full Article: Nickolaus' recall role in question - JSOnline

Wisconsin: Nickolaus won’t run for re-election as Waukesha County clerk | JSOnline

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.

Full Article: Nickolaus won't run for re-election as Waukesha County clerk - JSOnline.

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.

Full Article: GAB announces plan to speed Waukesha election reports - JSOnline.

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.

Full Article: Rock, Paper, Local: County Officials Still Wield Great Influence Over Elections - Election Academy.

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.

Wisconsin: Under pressure, Nickolaus hands off election duties to deputy | JSOnline

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.”

Full Article: Under pressure, Nickolaus hands off election duties - JSOnline.

Wisconsin: More election night problems in Waukesha | JSOnline

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.”

Full Article: More election night problems in Waukesha - JSOnline.

Wisconsin: 87-year-old voter thwarted in Waukesha for lack of ID | JSOnline

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.”

Full Article: Voter thwarted in Waukesha for lack of ID - JSOnline.

Wisconsin: Walker campaign case against election officials allowed to proceed | JSOnline

A state appeals court has refused to halt a legal attempt by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign committee to force state election officials to more aggressively screen signatures in a recall attempt against him. But the court also cleared the way for recall campaigns to appeal an earlier court decision in the case.

The appeals court’s action allows a hearing to proceed Thursday afternoon in the lawsuit by the Friends of Scott Walker and Stephan Thompson, executive director of the state Republican Party, against the state Government Accountability Board. The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in the courtroom of Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis.

The suit, citing constitutional rights to equal protection, asks Davis to order the accountability board to look for and eliminate duplicate signatures, clearly fake names and illegible addresses on recall petitions, which must be filed by Jan. 17. The accountability board reviews the signatures.

Full Article: Walker campaign case against election officials allowed to proceed - JSOnline.

Wisconsin: Court rules out intervention by recall groups | JSOnline

A judge Thursday ruled against recall campaigns that sought to intervene in a lawsuit over how state election officials check recall signatures. Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis also set Jan. 5 for the next hearing in the case, in which the Friends of Scott Walker and Stephan Thompson, executive director of the state Republican Party, asked Davis to order the state Government Accountability Board to look for and eliminate duplicate signatures, clearly fake names and illegible addresses. All of the issues in the case are expected to be handled during that hearing.

Jeremy Levinson, attorney for recall groups targeting Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and three Republican state senators, had sought to make the groups, and some individuals connected with them, parties in the case. Levinson also sought to have the Republicans submit to discovery, which could potentially have opened Walker campaign records to scrutiny by Democrats. With Davis denying the motion to intervene, discovery won’t occur, as an attorney for the accountability board said it didn’t see a need to conduct discovery.

Full Article: Court rules out intervention by recall groups - JSOnline.

Wisconsin: Waukesha County Clerk feels exonerated in election flub | Green Bay Press Gazette

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said last week she believes she has been exonerated even though her office is undertaking numerous changes in how it handles ballots following the nonreporting of 14,000 votes in the spring Supreme Court election. State investigators in September determined that Nickolaus likely broke the law by not reporting the votes in the hotly contested race between Justice David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, but her conduct was unintentional and not criminal.

… The Government Accountability Board on Tuesday approved numerous changes designed to improve the procedures used by Nickolaus’s office on election night. Both before the meeting and during a break, Nickolaus told reporters that the investigative report vindicated her handling of the votes.

“I’ve been exonerated,” she said. Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy disagreed. “I would not characterize it that way,” Kennedy said. The September report, led by former Dane County prosecutor Timothy Verhoff, found that Nickolaus likely broke state law requiring the posting of all returns on election night.

Full Article: Waukesha Co. clerk feels exonerated in election flub | Green Bay Press Gazette | greenbaypressgazette.com.

Wisconsin: Walker, GOP sue state elections and ethics agency over recall effort | JSOnline

Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and the state Republican Party director sued the state’s elections and ethics agency in Waukesha on Thursday over its handling of duplicate and bogus signatures in the ongoing recall effort against the governor. The top GOP lawmaker in the Assembly also took a shot at the Government Accountability Board – which he voted to create – saying it had strayed from its nonpartisan mission and might need to be replaced.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Waukesha County Circuit Court asks a judge to order the accountability board to look for and eliminate duplicate signatures, clearly fake names and illegible addresses. The lawsuit can be brought in one of the most conservative counties in the state because of a change in state law earlier this year by Republican lawmakers and Walker that allowed lawsuits to be brought against the state outside liberal Dane County, the seat of state government.

Full Article: Walker, GOP sue state elections and ethics agency over recall effort - JSOnline.

Wisconsin: Madison gets serious about election administration – a once low-profile city service is now of intense interest to residents | The Daily Page

Nothing can rile a taxpayer quite like an unplowed street or missed garbage pickup. The delivery of basic services can make or break a mayoral career. But a funny thing happened in the last year or so: In two separate city surveys, Madison residents identified election administration as one of the priority services delivered by city employees. In one case, 94% of respondents who attended a community budget meeting on city administration said that election administration was of “high” importance to them, right after the provision of emergency medical service by the fire department but before bus, sewer, snow removal, recycling and refuse services.

A web survey of city residents conducted between July 26 and Sept. 1 had similar results: 72% of respondents rated election administration of high importance. That also ranked higher than such city services as park maintenance, street repair, the management of communicable diseases and traffic safety control.

City Clerk Marybeth Witzel-Behl says she was surprised — and gratified — by the results. “We always thought elections were the most sacred thing we deal with,” says Witzel-Behl. But, she adds, “I didn’t realize the community echoed that value.”

Full Article: Madison gets serious about voting rights - Isthmus | The Daily Page.

Wisconsin: Lots of Attention for Waukesha County Clerk After Report Confirms Election Violations | Waukesha, WI Patch

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus won’t face any criminal charges for the Supreme Court election results mess caused when she failed to tell anyone about Brookfield’s votes. This week, her actions are getting plenty of attention.

An independent probe into the situation found Nickolaus likely violated state elections laws in her bungled release of state Supreme Court election results in April, but her conduct was not willful or criminal. Read the report.

On Monday, the Appleton Post Crescent wrote in an editorial that Nickolaus should be punished.The paper said it believes her mistake was “an honest mistake,” but that sometimes even those need to be punished.

Full Article: Lots of Attention for Waukesha County Clerk After Report Confirms Election Violations - Waukesha, WI Patch.

Wisconsin: Election Official Violated Law, but won’t be Charged in Supreme Court Vote Tally | WUWM

The state Government Accountability Board has concluded an investigation into the behavior of Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus after the April election for state Supreme Court. The board says Nickolaus violated the law by not posting all returns on election night.

However, the board says her violation was not willful, and therefore did not constitute criminal misconduct. Initial results on election night posted by Nickolaus showed challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg with a narrow lead over Justice David Prosser.

Two days after the election, Nickolaus announced that she had previously failed to report 14,000 votes. With the additional votes turned in, Prosser pulled into the lead.

Full Article: WUWM: News - Election Official Violated Law, but won't be Charged in Supreme Court Vote Tally.

Wisconsin: Independent investigator: Waukesha Clerk likely violated election law | 620 WTMJ

An independent investigation for the Government Accountability Board has found probable cause to believe that Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus violated state election law on the night of the Supreme Court Election.  However, the investigator also found that the violation was not willful and therefore does not constitute criminal misconduct.

Nickolaus failed to report results from Brookfield on election night.  The failure led to an initial vote total that showed the race was too close to call.  Nickolaus caught the mistake before reporting final vote totals.

“It was pretty clear to me that there wasn’t fraud,” said, former Dane County Prosecutor Tim Verhoff who conducted the investigation.

Full Article: Independent investigator: Waukesha Clerk likely violated election law - 620 WTMJ - Milwaukee's Source for Local News and Weather.

Wisconsin: Democrats Remove Vote Tampering Allegations in Recall Election | Fox Point-Bayside, WI Patch

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has pulled a news release from its website that alleges vote tampering in Waukesha County by the county clerk. The party chairman, Mike Tate, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they would not“not pursue questions of irregularities” that was referenced by the Democratic Party in “heat-of-the-moment statements.”

Earlier: Perhaps one of the most controversial county clerks in Wisconsin, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus is again under political scrutiny during the Alberta Darling recall election. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is claiming there is tampering going on in Waukesha County.

“The race to determine control of the Wisconsin Senate has fallen in the hands of the Waukesha County clerk, who has already distinguished herself as incompetent, if not worse,” said Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate in a prepared news release. “She is once more tampering with the results of a consequential election and in the next hours we will determine our next course of action. For now, Wisconsin should know that a dark cloud hangs over these important results.”

Full Article: UPDATE: Democrats Remove Vote Tampering Allegations in Recall Election - Fox Point-Bayside, WI Patch.

Wisconsin: Recalls: Slow Returns in Waukesha County Upset Democrats | WUWM

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has issued a statement critical of Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus for the length of time it has taken to produce election results from Tuesday’s recall. The race between incumbent Republican Senator Alberta Darling and Democratic Representative Sandy Pasch is the only one not yet called.

Nickolaus came under fire earlier this year, when she was late in reporting thousands of votes in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court and bags of ballots were not secured.

Full Article: WUWM: News - Recalls: Slow Returns in Waukesha County Upset Democrats.