Friday, April 08, 2011

This is Vanilla

Further to my remarks of yesterday, here is why we shouldn't have to worry much about whether the Waukesha vote totals constitute fraud. The adjustment can be corroborated in a number of ways. First, the voter rolls should reflect the higher number of aggregate votes. Second, the machines should reflect the higher number of aggregate votes. Third, the ballots - which were presumably removed from the machines by the inspectors and secured and sealed (s. 7.51(3)) - will reflect the results. Fourth, examination of her computer will reveal that the votes that she reported to the AP did not include the City of Brookfield - where everyone agrees that people cast these votes and that the votes went overwhelmingly for Prosser. Fifth, examination of her computer and that of the relevant official in Brookfield will show that the city's votes were reported to her. Sixth, the city clerk reported these votes on election night.

There were no votes "found" and no change in the official results. It is inaccurate to call what happened a "ballot blunder." It was not a "counting" error. The votes were not overlooked by the inspectors in the City of Brookfield. They were counted and reported to the county clerk. It was an error in reporting to the media by the county clerk. If she would have reported results by municipality on election night, it would have been immediately evident. In fact, in retrospect, those of us who were following the AP results in real time may have seen it happen when Waukesha's number of precincts reporting changed without a change in the vote totals.

If you read the statutorily prescribed process for counting the votes in Chapter 7 of the state statutes, you'll see that there is a mandatory process of verification and reconciliation called "canvassing" that results in certified vote totals. It was during this process that the reporting error was caught.

The canvas always results in changes to the unofficial totals. We usually don't notice them because they don't make any difference in the outcome. This was a very significant - larger than normal - change, but it is very easy to understand. If you want an analogy, think of the question of whether you overreported or underreported the income reflected on your W-2s. It is what it is.

So we ought to verify. But it is eminently verifiable.


Display Name said...

For a variety of reasons, it would be interesting to examine how this could've happened to someone so beloved by the WisGOP and Waukesha GOP. Why was it Nickolaus's evil genius computer network (and past software connection to Jensen and Foti while working for Prosser)? Well, that's some of the variety of reasons why we can still be grateful that this "common" error will bring in a little sunshine on erratic voting systems.

Anonymous said...

How this person could be so incompetent is beyond me. AND she used to work for Prosser? AND she insisted on a level of secrecy that enabled her incompetence...AND she waited more than a day after discovering her error to go public with it?

If it walks like a duck...

gnarlytrombone said...

The canvas always results in changes to the unofficial totals.

And discovery of long-lost cities.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like am honest mistake:

"But at the news conference with Nickolaus, Ramona Kitzinger, the Democrat on the Waukesha County Board of Canvassers, said: "We went over everything and made sure all the numbers jibed up and they did. Those numbers jibed up, and we're satisfied they're correct."

As a Democrat, she said, "I'm not going to stand here and tell you something that's not true.""


Rick Esenberg said...

"If it walks like a duck ..." There is an example of how people come to believe in stupid conspiracy theories. In this case, we can directly examine whether it is or isn't a duck. Either the votes were cast on Tuesday night or they weren't. Absent some unforseen complication, the system is set up in a way that should permit us to verify that without regard to Kathleen Nickolaus who, of course, didn't forget or lose or discover a city. She entered the city's votes - all counted, documented and recorded by someone else - and then forgot to save her entry. She didn't realize that they weren't in the total when she reported it - not to the state as part of the official certification - but to the press. Foust and Gnarly don't respond to that because they either don't care or don't understand. The voting system - at least in this case - was not erratic. It is, in fact, set up so this type of mistake doesn't get into the official totals. As it did not.

Dad29 said...

Foust and Gnarly don't respond to that because they either don't care or don't understand.

Actually, they do not care to understand.

Geo Mitchell said...

It will be interesting to see how much $ the national unions will flush on a recount.

gnarlytrombone said...

Kathleen Nickolaus who, of course, didn't forget or lose or discover a city

It's a joke, son. Made in response to your lame effort to pass off an epic bungle - one that will join Ed Gein in Sconnie lore - as a routine erratum.

How many county clerks held a nationally broadcast press conference to announce their canvassing adjustments?

Anonymous said...

First of all its not "conspiracy"
if its only one person cheating
(because "conspiracy" def is
that two or more are cheating)

Nickolaus..a data analyst and computer specialist for the Assembly Republican caucus,
headed up an effort to develop a computer program that averaged the performance of Republicans
in statewide races by ward.

During some of that time, Prosser served as Assembly Speaker, meaning he was essentially her boss.


"This raises so many questions," said Assembly Minority
Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.

Barca said he was shocked Nickolaus waited 24 hours to tell
people about the error.

A Democratic canvass observer said
Nickolaus gave no indication anything was unusual when she arrived at about 9 a.m. Thursday morning, and [the canvass observer] didn't find out about the error until [Nickolaus'] news conference that evening.

"There was no mention of Brookfield," volunteer canvass observer Nora Wilson said.

Unknown said...

"If it walks like a duck..."

And still you have no evidence of cheating, and won't, because, as Prof. Esenberg has noted, the reality of the situation is easily verifiable. All that you, "Screamin' Peter" Barca, and Mary Spicuzza have is innuendo.

Anonymous said...

The Year was 2006, and in Waukesha County...

"Computer glitches, inoperable equipment and other problems troubled Tuesday's primary balloting in Waukesha County, resulting in one candidate mistakenly being posted as winner of a race only later to be declared the loser.

The problems also prevented the county from posting final results of races until the early morning hours of Wednesday, and kept the county from posting results online.
...Christine Lufter, who lost a Republican primary in the 97th Assembly District, said Wednesday that she would not likely challenge the outcome, although she was still trying to sort out what happened.

"There was obviously a huge problem," she said. "And why it affected the 97th race more than any other is confusing."

Computer monitors at the county clerk's office late Tuesday briefly showed Lufter winning her race, as county officials scrambled to correct flawed returns from the City of Waukesha.

Final results later showed Lufter losing to fellow Republican Bill Kramer by a significant margin.

County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said some returns from the City of Waukesha inexplicably had data recorded in the wrong column, which momentarily skewed results.,-and-in-Waukesha-County

Anonymous said...

Journal Sentinel

Aug. 18, 2010

Waukesha - The County Board's Executive Committee
has ordered an audit of the county clerk...
The issue came to a head when
Nickolaus removed the election results
collection and tallying system from
the county computer network this spring and
installed it on stand alone personal computers
in her office...

Director of Administration Norman A. Cummings
said Nickolaus has been uncooperative
with attempts to have information technologists
review the system and confirm the backups.

Anonymous said...

County Clerk kathy Nickolaus
a former Republican staff member
avoided prosecution in a 2002 corruption probe
by agreeing to testify against
members of the assembly Republican Caucus.
She then resigned from that Republican Caucus.

She worked for 13 years as a data analyst
and computer specialist for the caucus.

Anonymous said...

you dont really care if she cheated
admit it.

you dont believe in the rule of Law.
admit it.

you cant handle the truth. admit it.

incompetence and sabatage are identical twins.

now go raise your kids to be like you...

Anonymous said...

"the reality of the situation is easily verifiable."

is it?

"Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything." -Stalin

David said...

If a Republican makes a mistake, it's "fraud."

If a Democrat makes a mistake, it's government policy.

Marc Eisen said...

Ms. Nickolaus should have resigned before the sun set Friday. Such incompetence is intolerable. The state is bleeding as it is. She ripped open a new wound. Is this not an issue where Democrats and Republicans can finally agree on something? Kathy Nickolaus should resign and quickly.

Uncle Frank said...

Rick, thanks for your analysis. Makes total sense. This event has become proof of how unhinged the left has become. Give them an innocent error, and they disregard the obvious explanation to invent an evil plot.

gnarlytrombone said...

Give them an innocent error

I'd hardly call designing a system guaranteed to produce a screw-up like this (and the three slightly lesser disasters before it) innocent.

Conspiracy theories are flying around because people think, not unreasonably, that someone holding a position of great responsibility could possibly be that incompetent.

I don't believe it was a conspiracy because I know that's exactly how things roll in Walkersha.

f2000 said...

"a system guaranteed to produce a screw-up like this"

Has anyone mentioned that the error was not in "the system", but with the reporting to the media? I think they have.

The AP is not the official registrar of votes. This is why they always (well, used to) say "unofficial" results.

gnarlytrombone said...

"but with the reporting to the media?"

Nickolaus was the one releasing the data to the media, fer chrissakes. She's the only one in the friggin' state who doesn't break it out by precinct, which would have revealed she had all zeroes for an entire municipality.

George Mitchell said...

Having worked for several newspapers, I have observed similar errors and on a few occasions was personally responsible. So I find Marc Eisen's demand for a resignation interesting. I guess Isthmus was perfect during his tenure.

Display Name said...

Loosen your cilices, old men. I haven't claimed there was fraud. I don't think Gnarly has, either. You're hearing voices.

It's clear to me there was incompetence and plenty to question. I've cheerfully pointed out the facts to many people, on other blogs, on Facebook (on my own profile, on 500K Against Walker, on Rep. Jorgenson's profile, on others), on other forums, that the Brookfield numbers were posted on their own web site, that a Fairly Conservative commenter was the first to correctly predict that 10K+ votes were missing from the AP numbers, and that the error happened because everyone was relying on the AP's numbers that were based on the error. I've pointed out that my Jefferson County, a quarter the size of Waukesha, has a reputable Republican clerk who managed to find a great way to put election results online. If Waukesha had done this, the error would've been caught early.

There is plenty to investigate here. I welcome the sunshine on Nickolaus's IT processes. I'm in IT. I've seen her pathology before, many times. "I forget to hit 'save'" doesn't cut it with me. (It also doesn't square with her "my subordinates altered the Excel templates when I told them not to" explanation. "I have to be the only one who can get into this laptop and this Novell server and I can't follow the County's IT processes or connect to its network" doesn't cut it with me. Even Dad29 ridiculed her IT processes on his blog.

So again I ask, why was the WisGOP and Waukesha GOP so supportive of someone with so many questions in her ability to do her job? Her flaws and history don't look good.

Uncle Frank said...

It was an absolutely innocent error. There was ZERO consequence to the mistake. None whatsoever. So the reaction to it is ridiculous.

Marc Eisen said...

George, people should take responsibility for their screw-ups.

This was a hugely consequential election, and Ms. Nickolaus reported the results wrong.

Please advise if you know of another election in Wisconsin history where a county clerk has so botched the results in a big election.

From what I read, Ms. Nickolaus has committed other reporting errors in past elections.

The public has a right to expect high-quality performance from its employees.

This is true of teachers in Milwaukee.

This is true of the clerk in Waukesha County.

Kathy Nickolaus should do what's honorable and resign.

George Mitchell said...


She did take responsibility. She clearly acknowledged her error. Not a syllable from her trying to deflect responsibility.

While you think she should resign, the better alternative is for Waukesha County voters to weigh in when and if she runs for another term.

Anonymous said...

Now, everyone post what you would have said had a Democrat done what Nickolaus did.

Anyone who says "same thing" is lying.

Marc Eisen said...

Yeah, I would say the same thing if a Democrat was the clerk.

I don't like being called a liar by a gutless poster.

Rick, I would suggest you not allow anonymous postings. Readers who aren't willing to put their names behind their opinions shouldn't have standing here.

Uncle Frank said...

Hey Anonymous, I am a lawyer, and I practice in the area of employment law. I would defend every person's right to make an simple mistake that hurts no one. Which is what we have here.

Anonymous said...

Prof Esenberg, I appreciate your balanced, reasonable views.

Do you have any thoughts to share about the WI AG's brief, arguing that the trial court erred in striking down a statute on procedural grounds?

The brief had an understated air of authority and confidence, but I just don't know the WI law well enough to tell if the brief had merit.

Unknown said...

Ms. Nickolaus reported the results wrong.

Ms. Nickolaus reported the unofficial results wrong to the Associated Press == there, fixed it for you.

Anonymous said...

"Prof Esenberg, I appreciate your balanced, reasonable views."


Anonymous said...

Prosser won. Fine. Liberals can accept that fact.
What some cannot fathom, however, is how you (Professor Esenberg) have the audacity to downplay a history of incompetence by a public official, as verified by a number of sources here. Because if this woman was a Democrat, and made a "innocent mistake" that led to the election of Kloppenberg, you know you would be not so charitable. I would venture to say you would call for her ouster. Your take exemplifies partisan politics at its worst. At least this blogger demonstrates balance and offers perspective.