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More Investigations Called for in Mystery of the Found Votes in Wisconsin

Dan Fejes at Pruning Shears has the simplest explanation for why Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus’ contention about failing to save in Microsoft Access is illogical. Nickolaus has made this the culprit for why 14,000 votes just turned up two days after the election when they weren’t initially in the unofficial totals. It’s a wonkish post, but Fejes is pretty clear – the short version is that there is no save function, and Access is pretty idiot-proof throughout. I won’t excerpt – just go read it.

Now, fortunately there’s a simple fix for all this. Because of what we know about Kathy Nickolaus, it would be unwise to take her claims at face value. Waukesha County votes on paper ballots and all the data remains available. So just count the votes. If it all matches up, Nickolaus was telling the truth and there’s nothing to fear. But until then, there’s plenty of reason to be appropriately skeptical. Here’s what her former co-worker counseled:

Now my opinion: FIRST THING IN THE MORNING someone needs to file a FOIA request and state open records request for the data on her computer. And impound the damn computer and do a complete forensic investigation.”

Citizen Action of Wisconsin has called for such a federal investigation and an “immediate impoundment of all computer equipment, ballots, and other relevant evidence needed to verify a fair vote count in Waukesha County.” This is what the other side and their team of Bush v. Gore lawyers would be calling for if the tables were turned. John Nichols writes:

Suppose the Democratic governor of Illinois had proposed radical changes in how the state operates, and suppose anger over those proposed changes inspired a popular uprising that filled the streets of every city, village and town in the state with protests. Then, suppose there was an election that would decide whether allies of the governor controlled the state’s highest court. Suppose the results of that election showed that an independent candidate who would not be in the governor’s pocket narrowly won that election.

Then, suppose it was announced by a Democratic election official in Chicago that she had found 14,000 votes in a machine-controlled ward that overwhelmingly favored the candidate aligned with the Democratic governor. And suppose the Democratic official who “found” the needed ballots for the candidate favored by the Democratic governor had previously been accused of removing election data from official computers and hiding the information on a personal computer, that the official’s actions had been censured even by fellow Democrats and that she her secretive and erratic activities had been the subject of an official audit demanded by the leadership of the Cook County Board.

Now, suppose that the number of additional votes tabulated for the governor’s candidate was precisely the amount needed to prevent the independent candidate from demanding an official recount.

Would even the most naive Illinoisan simply accept at face value that the new count was “legitimate” or that the governor’s candidate should suddenly be presumed to have been “elected”? Not likely.

Exactly right. JoAnne Kloppenburg is, at this hour, within the 0.5% that would allow her to call for a recount paid for by the state. She should exercise the option. And extreme care should be taken with Waukesha County. This could all turn out to be perfectly legitimate. All doubt of that can and should be removed.

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David Dayen

David Dayen