County Election Night Changes Mean More Responsibility on Local Level
Government Accountability Board approves election night procedures that will require municipal clerks in Waukesha County to upload unofficial results directly to the state system.
Changes to the way votes are reported in Waukesha County during the gubernatorial recall elections are going to put added pressure on municipal clerks, those clerks say.
The changes, approved by the state Government Accountability Board, require municipal clerks to upload unofficial election results to the state system, a move that puts more responsibility on local election officials.
Previously, municipalities sent their votes to the Waukesha County Clerk's Office, which counted them and sent them to the state. After several problems with counting the results in Waukesha County, officials decided to change the process for the May 8 recall primary and the June 5 general recall election.
County officials met Monday with clerks from New Berlin, Menomonee Falls, Brookfield and Waukesha to address any of their concerns about the election night changes.
'I have a lot of concerns'
Waukesha Deputy Clerk/Treasurer Gina Kozlik, who runs the elections for the city, brought up several issues with the procedure changes.
“Do I have concerns? Yes, I have a lot of concerns,” she said Tuesday. “Mainly, there is going to be a lot of municipal clerks that are signed onto the system. … We’ve experienced slowness in system. I am just concerned that it works.”
Testing the system, possible system failures, tabulating the vote counts, scheduling staff to have fresh eyes looking at the numbers and maintaining the integrity of all election materials in case of a recount are among Kozlik’s concerns.
“There are a lot of things that we need to work out, but I think overall it will be a good process,” Kozlik said. “The municipal clerks will get it done.”
Sussex Village Clerk Sue Freiheit agreed the change will mean additional responsiblities for local election officials.
"It'll mean, at the end of election night, there's now one more thing I have to do to input the data,” she said. “Before...we just used a modem to send the information to the county, and we didn't have to do anything more. Now that we're using the Insights, we had to send someone over with the packets and the tapes, so that was a different way of doing it. And now we have another way of doing it.
"We will be able to have a computer with us to go online and do the reporting, but there's so many other details at the end of the night, you worry about inputting it correctly," she added.
Change gets OK from state elections board
The Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in Wisconsin, has approved the plan to have municipal clerks in the county report the unofficial election night results from their communities to the state voter reporting system.
The change should help Waukesha County “develop a workable solution for timely, accurate and efficient Election Night reporting,” according to a statement from Kevin J. Kennedy, director of the GAB.
The Wisconsin Canvass Reporting System was built in September 2010, using grant money to allow the county clerks to report official vote tallies electronically, according to Kennedy.
“When we designed this web-based system, we also built in a tool for municipal clerks to enter unofficial, election night results into the system,” Kennedy said. “This is something that is not currently required by law, but which the state may want to consider in the future. It is that election night reporting tool that municipalities in Waukesha County are being asked to use.”
In addition to uploading results directly to the state system, the municipal clerks are being asked to submit an election night report with vote counts to Waukesha County. The ballot tapes are also to be delivered to the Waukesha County Courthouse by 4 p.m. the day after the election. However, clerks will not be required to go into the courthouse on election night.
The county will still post unofficial results with the GAB, canvass the votes and perform all other duties under state law.
"The Waukesha County Clerk’s Office will be able to create detailed reports from the data entered by municipal clerks, and publish those unofficial results reports in a variety of formats to the county’s website for the public and news media to view and download," Kennedy said.
Move designed to address a problem
The change in the procedure comes weeks after the latest snafu in Waukesha County Clerk’s Office Kathy Nickolaus' office, when some election results in the April 3 elections weren't posted until 10 hours after the polls closed. Those election night problems prompted County Executive Dan Vrakas to call on Nickolaus to step down from the election process or he would publicly ask for her resignation.
Nickolaus, who garnered national attention in April 2011 when her office made a mistake that flipped the outcome of a hotly contested state Supreme Court race, said she introduced new procedures prior to the April 3 elections to follow guidelines set forth by the state.