Justice David Prosser declared victory in the contentious Supreme Court election Friday, despite escalating scrutiny over votes in Waukesha County.
Prosser declared victory after canvasses of Wisconsin’s 72 counties confirmed he was ahead by 7,316 votes. A statewide certification, which adds up the county results, will be delayed until a Government Accountability Board investigation into the election is completed.
However, Prosser’s campaign is already anticipating a recount. In a statement on his website, Prosser called a recount “the likely next step,” and asked supporters to donate to a “Victory Recount Fund … to protect the integrity of the ballots cast and deliver a win.”
His opponent, Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, will have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to call for a recount if she chooses to do so. Because Kloppenburg trails by less than 0.5 percent, the recount would be conducted at the taxpayers’ expense rather than her own.
Prosser’s lead comes after Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus discovered around 14,000 uncounted votes from the Republican stronghold of Brookfield. More than 10,000 of those votes went to Prosser.
Adding to the confusion, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin cried foul last Thursday when apparent inconsistencies in Waukesha for the 2006 Attorney General election between Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk turned up.
The 2006 figures for Waukesha County show 174,047 votes were cast for the candidates in that race. However, according to the same figures, only 156,804 votes were cast in the whole election.
The non-partisan GAB’s investigation into the Waukesha ballots will now include the 2006 election, according to GAB Staff Attorney Mike Hoss.
“We’re going to look at the 2006 situation, and we’re going to investigate it,” Hoss said. “But it should be noted that the 2006 results were official results, whereas the Brookfield situation involved an error in the distribution of unofficial results, which was discovered in a routine canvass.”
Hoss stressed the focus of the investigation was on the Waukesha results, not on Nickolaus.
“We’re not investigating personalities. We won’t be singling her out to delve into her background,” Hoss said. “But she has been cooperating fully.”
He expected the investigators would deliver their preliminary findings on Wednesday.
The Common Cause in Wisconsin organization, a non-partisan group that advocates political transparency and accountability, called for a recount of the current election’s results in order to restore public confidence.
“It may turn out that in fact, Nickolaus just, as she said, made a colossal error,” said Executive Director Jay Heck. “The Prosser campaign would also want to get to the bottom of it because they don’t want a taint on their victory.”
Heck said he was not particularly concerned about the 2006 election’s discrepancy uncovered by Wisconsin Democrats. Had there been something fishy about the results, Heck said, interested parties should have brought it up five years ago.
Heck also said he does not understand why people have made an issue of the recount’s cost on the taxpayer.
“Can anyone put a price tag on honest elections or public confidence”? he said.
Heck emphasized a recount and further investigations would help eliminate doubt over the Waukesha results.