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April 9, 2011 / J. Shaw

Dems Furious After Wisc. Judge Vote Change

Democrats in Wisconsin were crying foul Friday after a significant vote-count change in the hotly contested Supreme Court election gave the conservative incumbent the lead in a race that could decide the fate of the state’s new divisive collective bargaining law.

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said it was “human error” that resulted in more than 14,000 votes from her predominantly GOP county not being reported on Tuesday. The corrected totals gave conservative Justice David Prosser a 7,500-vote lead, according to unofficial tallies, and undid the earlier likelihood of a recount. 

Rep. Peter Barca, Democratic Assembly minority leader, said Nickolaus’ revelation “raises disturbing questions, particularly in light of her partisan history.”

“The new Supreme Court race vote totals she ‘discovered’ during canvassing not only swung the election but also put the race just barely past the amount needed to trigger a state-financed recount,” he said in a statement.

“It doesn’t instill confidence in her competence or integrity,” he said, adding that the mistake could warrant an investigation.

Liberal groups also howled in protest.

“There is a history of secrecy and partisanship surrounding the Waukesha county clerk and there remain unanswered questions,” Scot Ross, director of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, said in a statement.

But Republican state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told Fox News he believes Nickolaus made a mistake. 

“The canvas process in Wisconsin is pretty routine after an election happens,” he said, “and, in the many that I have been involved in over the years, certainly there are changes to the vote totals that come in on election night.”

Fitzgerald noted that Grant County had added more than 100 votes for challenger JoAnne Kloppenberg after the initial count.

Prosser had faced a surprisingly strong challenge from Kloppenburg, a little-known assistant state attorney general who drew last-minute support — and significant get-out-the-vote efforts — from opponents of Gov. Scott Walker’s push to limit union power as part of a budget-balancing plan.

“I like to think that I have survived a nuclear firestorm of criticism and attack and smear,” Prosser told Fox News Thursday night. “As far as I’m concerned, if these results hold up, I will be the winner.”

Prosser added that he is waiting out the process.

“I’m not conceding, and I’m not congratulating. And I’m not claiming victory,” he said.

Prosser said the race should not be considered a referendum on Walker or any legislation that may end up at the court.

The fate of that law, which is facing legal challenges, could end up before the state Supreme Court, where Prosser or Kloppenberg could tip the balance. On Thursday, the state attorney general sought expedited review from the state’s high court.

Opponents of the law had hoped a Kloppenburg victory would set the stage for the high court to strike it down.



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