After Tuesday night’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election, a computer error in heavily Republican Waukesha County failed to send election results for the entire City of Brookfield to the Associated Press. The error, revealed today, would give incumbent Supreme Court Justice David Prosser a net 7,381 votes against his challenger, attorney Joanne Kloppenburg. On Wednesday, Kloppenburg declared victory after the AP reported she finished the election with a 204-vote lead, out of nearly 1.5 million votes cast.
On election night, AP results showed a turnout of 110,000 voters in Waukesha County — well short of the 180,000 voters that turned out last November, and 42 percent of the county’s total turnout. By comparison, nearly 90 percent of Dane County voters who cast a ballot in November turned out to vote for Kloppenburg.
Prior to the election, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus was heavily criticized for her decision to keep the county results on an antiquated personal computer, rather than upgrade to a new data system being utilized statewide. Nickolaus cited security concerns for keeping the data herself — yet when she reported the data, it did not include the City of Brookfield, whose residents cast nearly 14,000 votes.
Throughout the day Thursday, official canvass numbers flipped the lead back and forth between Prosser and Kloppenburg. While many believed a recount was inevitable, the addition of the Brookfield votes for Prosser could push the justice’s lead beyond the legal threshold that would trigger an automatic recount. Under state law, Kloppenburg could still ask for a recount up to three days after the official canvass, but would have to pay for it herself.
“Waukesha County officials have announced a press conference for 5:30 CST.”
More details as they become available.
— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.