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Another Election Night Snafu in Waukesha County

County Clerk Nickolaus under the spotlight again as changes in election procedures mean lengthy delay in tallying votes throughout the county.

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, who has been under fire for past election snafus, is at the center of attention again because new procedures in tallying votes resulted in lengthy delays in getting election results Tuesday.

Nickolaus, who garnered national attention last April when her office made a mistake that , said she introduced new procedures Tuesday to follow guidelines set forth by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in the state.

As a result, some elections results were not posted on the county's website until 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Her office, which said it would post local results online, posted few results and asked the media and political campaigns to hand-count the returns, using voting machine printouts taped to the walls around a room.

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Nickolaus' staff placed names of communities and ward numbers on the walls of a conference room right outside her office in the Waukesha County Administration Center. As results were brought in from municipalities, she and her staff would bring results tape out and place them on the walls underneath their respective communities and wards.

Although in past elections she would immediately place vote totals on the county’s website for county, state and federal races, the process was abandoned Tuesday. That meant reporters, campaign workers and those running for local office had to come into the conference room and add up the numbers themselves.

Nickolaus: 'We need a better process'

Nickolaus in a short phone interview Wednesday said the GAB-approved process allows her to post results to the public and the media before she can count the totals, but said it also slowed her staff down.

“We felt that the process was very cumbersome,” she said. “We need to have a better process before May, and I’ll be contacting the GAB about that.”

Nickolaus then cut the interview short with Patch, saying she had customers at the desk that she needed to assist.

However, she told the Journal Sentinel that when her staff went to upload data delivered by local clerks in packs and cards into her computer program, it didn't work.

"We were shocked," she told the newspaper, adding that the program had been tested "many times."

As a result, her staff manually entered every vote total for every candidate in every race and every municipality by hand, and then proofed them against the voting machine tapes before posting them online, according to the Journal Sentinel report.

Reid Magney, spokesman for the GAB, said the agency hasn’t had an opportunity to talk with Nickolaus about the reported issues and all the facts are not known yet, so he refrained from comment.

Magney directed Patch to documents from a December board meeting where it approved procedures for Waukesha County for chain of command and posting results.

Those procedures call for a copy of results sheets to be posted in the county building outside the clerk's office as soon as possible to allow the public at the courthouse to view them. Then the results are to be entered into the election software by two county staffers.

Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said Tuesday night's problems are just another example of incompetence in Nickolaus' office.

"All residents of Waukesha should be concerned about whether and how their votes are counted given the gross incompetence already on display there," he said in an email to Patch. "It keeps happening and happening and all that are offered are excuses."

Plenty of problems in Brookfield, elsewhere

The problems with results being posted online by the county caused headaches in Brookfield, where the Elmbrook School District was unable to report who had won its two contested School Board races.

The Village of Elm Grove and Town of Brookfield notified the school district of its local results for the School Board races but the City of Brookfield did not, choosing to follow the county's plan to be the reporting agency.

But since most of the district is in the city, the school district's election clerk told Patch at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday she could not say who had won the races, without the city information. Pat Felde, who works in the school district's business office, said she was relying on the county's website, which still showed zeros in the Elmbrook School Board columns.

Shortly before midnight, a Patch writer had hand-counted the results, which Patch then used to report the board incumbents had won with comfortable margins. At about 2 a.m. the county posted results for most local races. The county's results were largely the same as Patch's hand count.

Prosser race prompts changes

The election night results reporting change came after Nickolaus was criticized for not posting results online in last spring's state Supreme Court race, in which the entire City of on election night. in the razor-thin election from Kloppenburg, who had declared victory, to Prosser.

Had Nickolaus posted results online, someone would have caught the zeros for the City of Brookfield in the countywide total, some critics said.

County Clerk Candidates React

Jessie Read, who is running as a Democrat against Nickolaus in the November election for county clerk, said Nickolaus is “seemingly showing incompetence.”

“Why we have allowed this to happen time and time and time again is beyond me,” Read said.

Town of Mukwonago Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Karalewitz, who is running against Nickolaus on the Republican ticket, said the town did not have any issues with candidates receiving delayed results. However, she felt the process Tuesday night was inefficient and that the votes needed to be reported electronically.

“We are going backward,” Karalewitz said. “We really need to look at doing modem results and getting more into electronic results versus paper. I really don’t think that that process was a good process only because to get results people had to add the numbers together. It would have made more sense, if you were going to use paper, to submit spreadsheets.”

Professionalism of Volunteer Questioned

Karalewitz questioned the professionalism of the county clerk’s office. She described an incident in which she said a staff member “came storming after me and questioned why I was so late.”

Karalewitz said she doesn’t know the woman's name but she told the woman they were late getting to the Waukesha County Courthouse because the election workers were tabulating the absentee ballots before Karalewitz drove all the election tapes from the Town of Mukwonago to Waukesha.

“She responded and said, ‘You are running against her,’” Karalewitz said.

Karalewitz said the verbal attack was uncalled for and unprofessional.

“When clerks bring in their election materials, they do not need to be verbally yelled at by a staff member of the county clerk’s office,” Karalewitz said.

Nickolaus said the woman in question was not a staff member but was a volunteer for the evening. The volunteer walked out of the office after the incident with Karalewitz, Nickolaus said.

Karalewitz did not talk to Nickolaus about the incident, according to Nickolaus. Nickolaus was made aware about the incident from another media outlet.

“I didn’t know it had even happened,” she said.

Nickolaus said the Town of Mukwonago ballots were the last to arrive at the county when they arrived at around 12:15 a.m.

“There were plenty of people heard her state that she had other priorities and that this was not a priority to get the results here,” Nickolaus said. “We had plenty of work to do yet. I had just wanted to know if there were any issues to be dealing with. She didn’t come back and talk to me.”

Brookfield clerk prefers modem system

Karalewitz' desire to move to a modem reporting system was echoed by Brookfield City Clerk Kelly Michaels. Michaels, who began working for Brookfield in October succeeding longtime clerk Kristine Schmidt, said her two former employers — the cities of Wausau and Stoughton — used election machine equipment whose results could be modemed to the county.

"I'm disappointed because we got this email that said if we bring these discs in (to the county) we’d get the information through the county's website 30 to 40 minutes later," Michaels said.

She said in Wausau and Stoughton, modemed results did appear on those county's websites as quick as 15 minutes later.

However, the election machines that most Waukesha County municipalities purchased years ago do not allow for modem transmission — at least not until the Federal Elections Commission issues a certification allowing it, Michaels said.

Most communities, such as Brookfield, have two machines — the Insight which most voters are familar with and feed their paper ballots into — and the Edge, which is a touch-screen machine that few voters use. Another device combines the two machines results — and that device is what has not been certified for use by modem, she said.

watchingduck April 05, 2012 at 05:02 AM
republicans always complain that government is inefficient, ineffective and corrupt...... and every time we put them in office, they prove it
Dorothy April 05, 2012 at 05:08 AM
A private entity ? . .. working perfectly ?. . . really? Like the Diebold-determined Ohio election 2004 results? Why don't we just give it up now and let the Koch brothers install whomever they want? No need for elections! The GAB didn't screw this up: she did, time and time again. All over the state, county clerks, city, town and village clerks have been getting this right for years, and handing in timely results with few questions. You have to ask yourself why they're able to do it and she can't. Did you know that the results it took Nicky 8 hours to pull together don't even include all of the local races--for multi-jurisdictional judges, school boards, municiple and town offices? (Previous clerk Pat Madden used to report all county races, a practice that Nickolaus discontinued soon after taking office.) And this was a low turn-out election, too. Quit defending Nicky and start looking for a professional and competent clerk.
morninmist April 05, 2012 at 11:15 AM
Any talk of civility from the TeaGOP is nothing but BS! http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20120404/APC0602/204040535 Editorial: Talk of civility odd from lawmakers 1:25 AM, Apr. 4, 2012 | When one of the state's top lawmakers called for civility in the wake of the turbulent legislative session that just ended, we had one reaction. We rolled our eyes. Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he hopes Republicans and Democrats will find a way to work together to improve relationships in Madison. Oops, there's another eye roll. Words like those are too little, too late after the terrible behavior our elected officials displayed in the past year and a half. Republicans and Democrats in the Assembly, Senate and governor's office had a hand in creating one of the nastiest political sessions we've ever seen. Between the lack of compromise, the short notification on the budget repair bill vote, the decision of some senators to flee the state and the general lack of information sharing between parties, everyone should be ashamed. Especially Vos. He was the one who was tied to the confidentiality agreements handed out to Republicans during the redistricting process. He actively tried to keep information out of voters' hands.
morninmist April 05, 2012 at 11:16 AM
Spot on Rep. Jorgensen. Andy Jorgensen ‏ @RepJorgensen Here's a good read on recent Republican doublespeak. Editorial: Talk of civility odd from lawmakers #wirecall #wiunion http://post.cr/Hc2eVK
linda w April 05, 2012 at 12:06 PM
maybe you need to get your facts straight before you open mouth and insert both feet and your arse all at the same time
linda w April 05, 2012 at 12:10 PM
are you dense what do you not get that this women is very incompatent. further more this happens every time there is an election. she is either just plain stupid or a paid koch supporter. after\ all she did ask for immunity and got it and sent others up the river to keep her own arse out of jail now she is back at it again one day she will get causght at her illegal activites but it will be to late to change to correct the vote swap that people believe that is being done by her.
linda w April 05, 2012 at 12:13 PM
if it's the gabs fault how come every other county can get thiers done and kathy cannot. your comment won't hold water it's full of holes. she is crooked and she needs to be kicked out. PLAIN AND SIMPLE. SHE WILL NEVER BE TRUSTED SHE WAS A CROOK BEFORE AND SHE IS STILL A CROOK. ONE DAY WE WILL FIND OUT SHE THROUGH THE PROSSER RACE PAID FOR BY THE KOCH BROTHERS
linda w April 05, 2012 at 12:17 PM
what don't you get. she always screws things up every election. she did this everyone else can get theirs in but she can never get it done right. look at her past when she got immunity and what she was involved with and it goes back to prosser again KOCH BROTHERS STAND OUT?
linda w April 05, 2012 at 12:18 PM
IGNORANCE IS BLISS BUT CORRUPTION IS WRONG
linda w April 05, 2012 at 12:21 PM
well said and i would almost bet that kathy is working hand in hand with vos. after all they are all crooked and decietfull. walkers staff has proved that.
linda w April 05, 2012 at 12:22 PM
maybe they need to start checking her bank accounts to see if the koch brothers are funding her illegal activities
Walker April 05, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Wait what? Who was Romney caught bribing?
Menoparent April 05, 2012 at 12:43 PM
It's interesting that someone mentioned here about the Prosser/Kloppenberg election night. Don't know if this is true, but I noticed on the Journal blog with this article: someone say that the night of that election, Prosser met with Walker and Walker told him "don't worry I am sure they will come up with more votes."!!!! I also wanted to boo Kathy Nickolaus when they put her in the Falls 4th of July parade last year.
Lib Hater April 05, 2012 at 12:43 PM
you liberals and dems are like a skin rash that only gets worse. It will be a Republican that replaces her (agree its time). Nice try though.
Will Silvers April 05, 2012 at 12:44 PM
It's not incompetence to get a correct count the first time. Just because she didn't half-ass it, you are mad?
Gary Tefft April 05, 2012 at 01:46 PM
I give my vote for "Best Comment of the Day" to you, Dorothy. (But, I do wonder how long it's going to take to get my vote tabulated if Kathy Nickolaus is in charge.)
Matt April 05, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Why should this position be at all partisan? It seems like nothing they do has to do with what party they belong too, its a straight numbers job. We got into this mess with her because people voted straight R and put her in office even tho she is horrible at her job.
Steve Maerz April 05, 2012 at 05:25 PM
She could win by doing what everyone else in the state does. Why do some people insist on supporting people who have clearly demonstrated their utter incompetence again and again? If this woman does not fit the definition of "inept" then who does? She is the only one who, time and time again, can't get it right. She is a joke. If she was a liberal, would you get it?
Steve Maerz April 05, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Craig, you clearly have no idea what you are talking about. This woman has clearly demonstrated that his is totally incompetent, not just a little incompetent, and how incompetent do you have to be to lose your job in Waukesha? The GAB system works for everyone in the state but Nickolaus. Let's assume that she finally gets it right one of these days, is that really the best Waukesha has to offer? What kind of County are you guys operating over there? Is there something in the water that makes everyone blind to ineptitude? Maybe you should consider recruiting someone from outside of Waukesha County.
James R Hoffa April 05, 2012 at 07:20 PM
@morninmist - Forgetting that the public sector union stooge board members were ousted in the Burlington Area School District, aren't we? Not to mention that although Boyle won, he was definitely the better choice over Obama supporter Nielsen, even if Boyle was somewhat critical of Walker during his campaign. And although business friendly Piontek topped Nieskes, they really aren't all that ideologically different, are they? Although the City of Racine and Village of Sturtevant may be liberal cesspools, it would appear that the rest of the County is leaning heavily conservative. I see it as a good sign for Walker and the GOP in the upcoming elections. But spin away, as that's what you guys on the left consistently do.
James R Hoffa April 05, 2012 at 07:23 PM
You all seem to forget that the GAB implemented 'special operational procedures' in Waukesha County after last year's investigation. If someone could tell me another county that is under the same special procedures as Waukesha, by all means, please share. Otherwise, keep your pie holes shut!
James R Hoffa April 05, 2012 at 07:32 PM
@morninmist & linda w - Did the liberal dynamic duo even watch the debate between Barca and Vos on Wisconsin Eye? Why don't you try watching and tell me what side is being more divisive? Clearly, all Barca was doing was rambling off talking points for a majority of the time he had to speak, accusing those on the other side of the partisan isle of being divisive. Meanwhile, all you hear from Robin is positive encouragement towards trying to work together. The Dems have clearly tricked you into believing that this power play of theirs is something altruistic by getting you to believe that the Republicans are somehow evil. Your constant re-posting of other's thoughts and ideas instead of original comments of your own clearly displays your brainwashed lemming mentality. I feel sorry for both of you!
Steve Maerz April 05, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Yes, Mr. "Hoffa", and why is Waukesha County getting special attention and having investigations? Because they are being picked on for no reason? No, because they have an incompetent boob screwing up every election while the rest of the state is having no problems at all. Stop trying to defend the indefensible, it destroys your credibility.
Waukytalk April 05, 2012 at 09:47 PM
@mau Great comment!!! People are just upset because they have to wait for the results. There's nothing in the rules that a count has to be done that night. You sure learn alot when you work at the polls.
the 'sha guy April 29, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Read is a democratic activist. She signed and circulated a Walker recall petition!
the 'sha guy April 29, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Read is a democratic activist. She signed and circulated a Walker recall petition!
morninmist April 29, 2012 at 05:55 AM
@the 'sha guy If people want to be on a witchhunt, let them check the petition site themselves. Shame on you for posting that information. Grow up. ....... the 'sha guy 9:19 pm on Saturday, April 28, 2012 Read is a democratic activist. She signed and circulated a Walker recall petition!
morninmist April 29, 2012 at 05:58 AM
Shame on you. You posted your witchhunt post above a minute earlier also. ....... the 'sha guy 9:19 pm on Saturday, April 28, 2012
morninmist April 29, 2012 at 12:54 PM
I would hope that folks of all stripes would be happy about this. Eric Nelson ‏ @EZ_4_new_MN RT @Cal_Politics Kathy Nickolaus won't run 4 re-election as Waukesha County clerk. http://bit.ly/JS5PKy #wirecall #wivote #stribpol #wiunion
morninmist April 29, 2012 at 12:59 PM
So, she signed the petition. Why are you spamming the board with your witch hunt? When the Tea Party first put out that list, they said it was for folks to check to make sure their names were not on the list inappropriately. Now you are using it as blackmail. Shame on you! I see you posted your vile post above also. ........ the 'sha guy 9:19 pm on Saturday, April 28, 2012

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