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Supreme Court race highlights contentious week in Madison

By   /   April 8, 2011  /   No Comments

By Kirsten Adshead   Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — Wisconsin appears to be close to knowing the winner, at least initially, of the contentious Supreme Court race between sitting Justice David Prosser and Assistant Attorney General Joanne Kloppenburg.

But the director of the state’s elections regulatory body, the Government Accountability Board, said Friday that the final statewide tally won’t be certified until the board investigates a vote-counting snafu in Waukesha County that led to the omission of more than 14,000 votes on Election Day.

 

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said Thursday afternoon that she overlooked votes from the town of Brookfield but managed to account for the error before a Board of Canvassers completed tabulating the official vote totals.

The inclusion of those votes tipped the race away toward Prosser and away from Kloppenburg, who on Wednesday declared herself victorious with a 204-vote lead.

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said he had talked with Nickolaus about the situation and maintained his support of her.

"It obviously shakes the confidence (of voters) and so we want to correct that," he said. "But for the official results, we're double-checking those numbers by having our staff down there to look at them."

Kennedy added that both the Prosser and Kloppenburg campaigns would have an opportunity to look at the original canvassing documents used to verify Waukesha County's official vote counts.

County canvassing boards met Thursday and Friday to certify local results. Outagamie and Milwaukee counties didn’t expect to finish their canvassing Friday.

Wisconsin Reporter, however, has been totaling the canvassed results from the majority of the state’s 72 counties by contacting county clerk offices and compiling the results posted on the GAB’s website.

With all but three counties reporting – Kenosha, Milwaukee and Outagamie – Prosser leads Kroppenburg by 7,481 votes.

Even after the GAB certifies the final numbers, however, either candidate still could request a recount.

In preparation, both political campaigns have assembled teams of high-powered lawyers.

The Kloppenburg campaign has hired Madison’s Perkins Coie law firm, which on Friday used the state’s open records law to request documentation related to the Waukesha County vote.

“For obvious reasons, there is a great deal of public interest in these materials and time is of the essence given the status of the canvass process,” according to the law firm’s open records request. “For that reason, we ask that you expedite the production of responsive materials and we request that these records be provided on a rolling basis, with each record being provided as soon as it is available.”

Even if a recount is requested, it’s unclear who would pay for it.

Under state law, if the margin of victory is less than one-half of 1 percent, the state and counties pay for the recount. Otherwise, the candidate requesting the recount would have to pay.

That threshold is probably in the region of 7,400 to 7,500 votes, based on the unofficial totals reported by the Associated Press on Tuesday, which puts Prosser’s current margin of victory right on the cusp.

Both candidates are raising money to help fund any recount, which Prosser’s campaign website says is “likely.”

“After a challenging battle in which a historic number of votes were cast in a Supreme Court race, we need your help in preserving a victory for Justice David Prosser,” the site’s home page says. “The likely next step is a recount, requiring resources to protect the integrity of the ballots cast and deliver a win.”

Kloppenburg’s website requests funds so that the campaign can “participate vigorously” in a recount.

ALSO THIS WEEK …


• Members of the Joint Committee on Finance held meetings around the state to get public input on the proposed budget for the 2011-2013 biennium, which begins July 1.

• President Barack Obama and Congress engaged in last-minute negotiations to try to stave off the first shut-down of the federal government since 1996. 

• Legal wrangling over changes to the state’s collective bargaining provisions continued, with Attorney General J. B. Hollen asking the state Supreme Court to allow the changes to go ahead, despite a temporary restraining order put on the legislation by Dane County Judge MaryAnn Sumi. Hollen is asking the high court to take up the case, arguing that Sumi “exceeded … her lawful authority.”

• The group organized to recall Sen. Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, said it has collected enough signatures to launch a recall election and submitted the necessary paperwork Thursday. The GAB now is charged with ensuring that the signatures are valid.

 

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