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Found votes leapfrog GOP judge over rival

April 8, 2011 at 7:14 PM   |   Comments

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MADISON, Wis., April 8 (UPI) -- Wisconsin's top election official said his staff will examine votes disclosed Thursday that gave a big electoral lead to a sitting state Supreme Court justice.

Kevin Kennedy, director of the Government Accountability Board, issued a statement saying he was sending staff members "to review the business processes and verify the reported results" of vote totals from Brookfield, Wis. -- which were disclosed Thursday by Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus.

State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser gained a net 7,582 votes due to "human error," Nickolaus said in announcing the votes had been found after unofficial returns were announced for Tuesday's election.

Such error in not adding votes to the tally database is "common in this process," Nickolaus said, and "the purpose of the canvass is to catch these kind of mistakes."

"This is not a case of extra votes or extra ballots being found," Nickolaus, a Republican, said. "This is human error, which I apologize for."

Prosser, who has served the court for 12 years, had trailed Democratic challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by 204 votes out of nearly 1.5 million cast statewide before the uncounted votes were discovered.

Assistant Attorney General Kloppenburg declared victory Wednesday based on the unofficial totals, which said all precincts were counted.

Kennedy said he had been in "close contact" with Nickolaus since her announcement Thursday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Friday.

"I … have directed her to make the official returns from the polling places available for public inspection," Kennedy said in the statement. "These documents are public records. I believe she is now taking steps to ensure transparency and public confidence in the official results."

Kennedy told reporters Friday the Kloppenburg campaign would be given access to the figures produced by Nickolaus Thursday.

The election has become a proxy referendum on Wisconsin's controversial law that would take away nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers. Wisconsin has become a focal point of a national battle between Republican governors and labor organizations, The Wall Street Journal said.

Unions threw their support behind Kloppenburg in an effort to gain a liberal majority on the court, which Thursday was asked by the administration of Republican Gov. Scott Walker to hear a legal challenge to the union-limiting law.

Prosser, seen by many as part of a 4-3 conservative majority on the high court, also picked up 224 votes in the Oshkosh, Wis., county after a discrepancy was found in that county's figures, the Winnebago County clerk said.

Canvassers around the state updated their totals Thursday, with Prosser and Kloppenburg both making gains, the Journal Sentinel reported Thursday night.

County clerks have until April 15 to reconcile their vote counts and report their totals to the state.

The losing candidate has until April 20 to request a recount.

Kloppenburg campaign manager Melissa Mulliken declined to say Friday whether the campaign would ask for a recount, the Journal Sentinel reported.

As state political leaders braced for highly unusual efforts to recall 16 state legislators -- an even number of Democrats and Republicans -- over their roles in the fight over the collective-bargaining law, Walker's administration asked the state Supreme Court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the law, which he signed March 11.

The Department of Administration filing also asks the court to remove a judge's order blocking the law's enactment.

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi blocked the law March 31 from being implemented while she considers the case.

The Walker administration argues Sumi has no authority to strike down an act of the Legislature based on an alleged violation of the state open-meetings law. It says the judge has no right to stop a law from taking effect and Sumi issued a temporary restraining order improperly.

"The Wisconsin Constitution clearly does not allow such actions by the judicial branch," the administration's petition stated.

The court did not immediately say whether it would take up the appeal and is not required to respond in any time frame.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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