Imagine you are an election official in charge of counting the votes of an entire district of citizens.
As the county’s elected election supervisor, it’s ultimately your job to tally the votes smoothly and efficiently by entering them into a simple spreadsheet.
With that responsibility on your shoulders, would you forget to hit the save button?
According to officials in Waukesha County, Wis., that is exactly what happened after Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election last week.
Kathy Nickolaus, Waukesha County Clerk, announced at a press conference that she had single-handedly left nearly 15,000 votes uncounted simply by forgetting to click save, according to MSNBC. Those votes, most from a conservative-leaning suburb, may have robbed liberal challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg of her 204-vote victory, instead delivering the Supreme Court seat to incumbent David Prosser.
It was only a couple months ago that Kloppenburg was the unquestionable underdog in the race, receiving only 28 percent of the vote in the primary to Prosser’s 55 percent, according to the Associated Press.
But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the rest of the Republican establishment there changed all that when they pushed their now-infamous anti-union bill through the state Legislature. Citizens descended en masse in protest and some demonstrations drew crowds of more than 70,000. Public rage boosted Kloppenburg from a distant challenger to a legitimate contender.
The controversial bill is winding its way through the Wisconsin court system and, ultimately, it will be the state Supreme Court that decides its fate. With a Kloppenburg victory, liberals would have gained a 4-3 majority on the court and would have been able to strike the bill down. That is why this Supreme Court race carries so much importance.
So when Nickolaus, a Republican, announced two days after the election that she had found 15,000 pesky votes hiding on the hard drive of her personal computer, according to Forbes, many were rightfully suspicious.
The new votes put Prosser, who is aligned with Walker, about 7,500 votes ahead of his challenger – conveniently outside the range mandating a state-funded recount.
It turns out Nickolaus once worked for a Republican caucus controlled by Prosser, according to MSNBC.
Nickolaus escaped prosecution back in 2001 when a state GOP caucus, of which Prosser was a member, was investigated for violating campaign laws.
Her role in the caucus, among other things, was to design a software program to track donation information. It’s a bit startling that a software programmer could forget to hit the save button on a spread sheet.
While there is certainly no proof of election fraud in this case, clear signals seem to be there.
This whole thing may just be a simple case of carelessness and negligence, but nonetheless, state and federal investigations should start immediately to ensure there was no wrongdoing. Depending on those results, a recount of the vote should be conducted so all Wisconsin voters can see Prosser as their duly elected and legitimate Supreme Court justice.
Vincent DeFrancesco is a junior majoring in mass communications.