At a press conference just moments ago, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus explained how “human error” caused nearly 15,000 votes from the city of Brookfield to be excluded from early county tabulations.
A clearly nervous Nickolaus said that she first discovered that data for Brookfield was missing when she uploaded a database of county votes to a state system, and noticed that all rows and columns for the city contained zeros. On Wednesday, the county’s bipartisan canvassing board began reviewing those unofficial results — which didn’t contain the Brookfield numbers — with official tape totals from voting machines throughout the county. They found a discrepancy.
“I discovered that the data that was sent to me from the city of Brookfield was not transferred to the final report that was given to the media on Tuesday night,” Nickolaus said. Heavily red Brookfield, she said, had cast 10,859 for Prosser and 3,456 for Kloppenberg, netting the incumbent over 7,000 votes and a lead that could put him beyond the legal trigger for a mandatory recount.
Nickolaus assured reporters repeatedly that “This is not a a case of extra votes or extra ballots being found.” The canvassing process is a standard part of election results certification in the state, and its purpose is to catch errors just like this one.
“This is human error, which I apologize for, which is common in this process.” She said huge turnout — 47 percent of the county — was part of the reason she didn’t notice thousands of missing votes from the totals. She said that though she “saved” the database repeatedly throughout the night, for some reason Brookfield data was not included in the version that went out to the AP, among others. No word on whether it was related to the fact that Brookfield had to submit its own electronic data to the county twice, as it was initially improperly formatted.
Nickolaus, who is a Republican, said the canvassing process was transparent and bipartisan:
“We sat through an open transparent meeting for the last day and a half. We sat with people from both sides of the aisle and went through every tape, number by number, then proofed those numbers again.”
At one point Ramona Kitzinger, a Democratic representative on the canvassing board and vice-chair of the county’s Democratic party, stepped up to the podium to confirm Nickolaus’s account. “We’re satisfied that it’s correct,” Kitzinger said of the numbers.“We went over everything and made sure the numbers jibed.”
Nickolaus, who took fire last year for opting out of a county-wide voting system in favor of what critics said were antiquated computers, said the issue was “unrelated to the election system itself.”
“It was just a matter of the save,” she said. “It was just human error.”