In spite of evidence that the Government Accountability Board did not even review the election irregularities noted in the canvass report uncovered by the Brad Blog, JoAnne Kloppenburg has conceded the Wisconsin Supreme Court race to Republican conservative (and Walker “complement”) David Prosser. In what can only be seen as an understatement, Kloppenburg warned that the recount should serve as a wake-up call to improve Wisconsin’s election process.
WisPolitics Election Blog reports:
“This recount should serve as a wake-up call to improve Wisconsin’s election processes,” she said.
Kloppenburg noted that votes were found to be miscounted in every county, more than 150 ballot bags were found to be torn, open or unsealed. She particularly trained her concerns to problems in Waukesha County, where the elections clerk divulged two days after the election that 14,000 votes from the city of Brookfield were not counted, swinging the vote total to Prosser’s favor.
“Waukesha County had twice as many torn, open or unsealed bags as every other county in the state combined,” she said. “In many cases municipal clerks in Waukesha testified the bags weren’t torn when they left cities, towns and villages so the security breaches occurred sometime when the bags were in Waukesha County’s custody.”
Kloppenburg is calling on the GAB to take steps to improve security, accountability and transparency in the election process. More resources and training are needed for clerks and election volunteers, she said.
In case you missed it, the Brad Blog has pictures of the “torn” ballot bags, and they look more like wide open bags. In fact, five of six bags in the first batch are wide open, and then there are duct-taped ballot bags and by ballot bags whose secure chain of custody can not be established due their labels being completely devoid of the “tamper-evident” plastic security tag that is supposed to be attached to the bags.
And then, in my favorite episode of “election irregularities”, Brad Blog found ballot bags with serial numbers that were never recorded on election night. Now, remember that clerk Nickolaus told us that these ballots weren’t “missing” they were counted that night, but she simply didn’t save them properly to her computer.
If she didn’t save them properly, but they existed, then where is the serial number that goes to this bag? Oddly, after all of these votes were counted during the recall, they added up pretty closely to the revised numbers Nickolaus announced days after election night.
So you may be asking yourself, what did the GAB rely upon to certify this election? We’ve heard that the GAB reviewed the ballots and this race is done, so how did they do it? In addition to hand counts, they used poll tapes. And what did the Brad Blog find, but election night poll tapes from Waukesha’s City of Pewaukee dated March 30th, seven days prior to the April 5th election. These were used to certify the race. They said they were going to do a handcount, and they did, but the problem is that they included all of the ballots whose dubious chain of secure custody and ripped bags would lead a reasonable person to investigate further.
Leading up to this “certification”, we had further odd behavior from the previously legally embattled Nickolaus, who never showed the canvassers the ballot bags during the original canvass, which she ordered earlier than normal. In fact, she never told them at all about the “found” 14,000 votes.
These facts were all documented in the minutes of the recount, but the GAB never reviewed the minutes before certifying the election, so all of these ballots with unexplained irregularities were counted.
Brad Friedman of the Brad Blog reports:
“Whether or not there was fraud remains to be seen. But at the very least, the procedures in Wisconsin are neither adequate nor adequately followed,” she says. “That is what has been verified by this recount, rather than the results of this crucial election.”
The G.A.B.’s certified results declare Prosser the winner by 7,004 votes, or 0.46%. That margin includes the results from thousands of ballots found to be irregular for various reasons during the count, objected to by the Kloppenburg campaign in each instance, and then included in the results nonetheless, without review by the state agency.
If just over 3,500 “irregular” votes for Prosser, out of the 1.5 million cast overall, might have been cast originally for Kloppenburg instead, that would be enough to change the outcome of the election, as called for by Wisconsin statutes.
JoAnne Kloppenburg would have won this race if it weren’t for the “found” votes in Waukesha County. Kloppenburg’s concession may have come down to money. As Friedman points out, since neither party supported Kloppenburg’s race, she simply may not have the money to challenge these results in court.
The problems in this election should give all Wisconsinites pause and cause for alarm. It is possible to have elections that do not have such blatant abnormalities, and ballot bags whose chain of secure custody can be established. This is the way elections are supposed to work, and while we can assume some degree of human error, when we add up all of the irregularities in this race, we don’t come away with the sense that justice has been served. And by “justice”, I do not mean a Kloppenburg win; I mean citizens’ votes being counted accurately and I mean a sense of trust in the electoral process. It’s bad for democracy when citizens doubt that their vote has an impact on the outcome of an election.
The GAB has also approved a July 12 recall election for GOP Senators Alberta Darling, Sheila Harsdorf and Rob Cowles, lest anyone automatically assume the GAB has partisan issues. If I had to guess right now, I’d bet that their actions in the Supreme Court race reflect a lack of money, a lot of pressure, and a wee bit too much trust, as this rather new board’s model has been praised by non-partisans in the past, but stranger things have happened. The GAB is still reviewing the recalls against the Democrats, due to “numerous factual and legal issues”.
With Prosser in and the Wisconsin DoJ pushing to have the Supreme Court overrule Judge Sumi’s killing of the collective bargaining bill due to violations of the Open Meetings Laws, we should brace ourselves for a possible quick reversal. However, the Republicans’ violation of the Open Meetings Laws were numerous and documented, and I’d like to believe that even conservatives like Prosser still have respect for the process of law and order. There is simply no way to get around the many violations of the OML, with access denied in numerous ways as well as legal time frame of notice not given.
But I may have put too much hope in Prosser’s integrity. He sure hasn’t conducted himself like a man of reasonable temperament, and for reasons other than the union killing bill, I fear his influence on the court is a bad thing for justice. As a woman, I sure as heck wouldn’t want to have to depend upon Prosser for justice.