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.”
Nickolaus again came under scrutiny because her Tuesday night election efforts resulted in long delays in reporting results. Based on an agreement with the state Government Accountability Board – one that came about after she omitted 14,000 votes from unofficial totals on election night – Nickolaus was to post paper voting machine tape records outside her office as soon as municipal clerks delivered them in person. Then she was to electronically upload the memory cards of the municipal ballot machines and produce summary reports throughout the night. Instead, the data transfer didn’t work, something she said shocked her because she said the system had been tested many times. As a result, she and her staff manually typed in every number for every race in every voting district into the wee hours of Wednesday morning and then proofed the results before putting them online. Initial results came about six hours after polls closed.
Meanwhile, reporters were left to tabulate election outcomes by hand from yards of machine tapes that had been taped to walls in a county meeting room.Vr akas said he was among those frustrated Tuesday night waiting for online results. While Vrakas doesn’t have the ability to fire Nickolaus, who is independently elected to a four-year term, his public ostracism of a fellow Republican in the same courthouse is unheard of. “I am responsible for the efficient operation of the county,” he said. “It’s not easy sitting behind the county executive’s desk, so when I see a part of our operation that needs attention I’m not afraid to take action. It’s not just about Tuesday. It’s something that has built up in past elections. It’s been an issue that’s been building.”