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The few remaining counties still recounting votes from Wisconsin's April 5th Supreme Court election worked over the weekend, some harder than others. 71 of Wisconsin's 72 counties are either finished or expect to be finished by Monday, May 9th, the legal deadline.

Dane County, home of Madison, finished at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, two days ahead of schedule. Their canvassers worked 12 hours a day for 11 straight days. Karen Peters, the clerk for Dane County, said she will release the remaining Dane County results on Monday morning.

Meanwhile, Waukesha County finished counting votes from the city of Brookfield but they still have a long way to go. The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) in Madison will be seeking an order from the Dane County Circuit Court on Monday morning extending the recount deadline for an unspecified length of time to allow Waukesha to complete their recount. Waukesha County has been livestreaming its recount proceedings here.

The GAB took the weekend off, so there are no new numbers to report from them since Friday night. Waukesha County officials were quick to proclaim, though, that their Brookfield numbers were essentially unchanged from the original canvass. Those numbers were submitted to Brookfield media a few hours after the polls closed by the Brookfield city clerk, but were not included in the election night county-wide totals by the Waukesha County clerk, Kathy Nickolaus. Nickolaus announced in a press conference two days later that she had made a "human error" and apologized. The Brookfield numbers gave David Prosser a lead of over 7,000 votes. Prior to Nickolaus's press conference, it was assumed that JoAnne Kloppenburg had won by 200 votes.

Nickolaus has said she realized her error the morning after the election. She has never explained why she did not inform the GAB, the lone Democratic member of the Waukesha Board of Canvassers, or the media until 28 hours after she discovered the error. First news reports of the additional Prosser votes were from a right-wing Milwaukee radio host hours before Nickolaus's press conference.

The GAB, whose communications usually project an air of non-partisan detachment, seem a bit testy about criticism they're receiving from some for not being more "hands-on" during the recount. Here's what Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the GAB, has to say:

“Wisconsin has the most decentralized election system in the United States,” Kennedy said. “The system has strong local control coupled with state oversight, resting on the partnership between the Government Accountability Board, the 72 county clerks, and the 1,850 municipal clerks. State law clearly gives each county’s Board of Canvassers the primary authority to conduct the recount, and to decide which ballots should and should not be counted.  Recounting votes is an open, transparent process in which each of the candidates may have representatives present to raise objections, and where the public may be present to observe.  The G.A.B.’s legal role is to order the recount, to provide legal guidance to the counties during the recount, and to certify the results.  If either of the candidates disagrees with the results of the recount, the law gives them the right to appeal in circuit court within five business days after the recount is completed.  The circuit court is where issues discovered during the recount, but not resolved to the satisfaction of the candidates, are resolved.

The emphasis is mine, because it hit a nerve with me. Throughout the recount, numerous issues with the chain of custody of Waukesha County ballot bags have been uncovered. Missing serial numbers on bag labels, improperly sealed bags, incorrect serial numbers on elections inspection report - all have been objected to by JoAnne Kloppenburg's campaign and all objections have been quickly overruled by the man hired by Waukesha County to oversee their board of canvassers.

That man is retired Waukesha County Circuit Judge Robert Mawdsley. He has noted the objections for the record and ordered all bags opened and counted. Each time he has dismissed an objection, he has prefaced it with mumbled statements such as "That's not what we're here to do", or "That's for someone else (the courts) to decide."

"WRONG!", I say to you Judge Mawdsley. That is for you to decide. You and the two other members of the Waukesha Board of Canvassers are responsible for making legal determinations about which votes should be counted. Every time you say "Count the votes," you are making the decision that an open bag, or a missing serial number, or an inaccurate inspection report do not meet the burden of proof needed to disqualify votes.

It warrants repeating what the director of the GAB said:

State law clearly gives each county’s Board of Canvassers the primary authority to conduct the recount, and to decide which ballots should and should not be counted.

I'm not even saying you're wrong by counting the votes. It should take a lot of evidence to throw out votes and disenfranchise voters whose only error is residing in a county with incompetent, ethically-challenged elected officials. I'm simply saying stop deliberately confusing people about what your role is. Take charge, own your decisions, and explain your reasoning.

Despite what you say, it is not the circuit court's role to decide if ballots should be counted. Its role (if one of the candidates appeals the results) is to determine whether you, Judge Mawdsley, made the right decisions. It may seem like a subtle distinction, but it's not.

Do your job, Judge. I heard you chatting "off the record" during the livestream, so I know whose team you're on. Your corrupt party's strategy is to ram every vote through and bankrupt the Kloppenburg campaign by forcing them to appeal your decisions. And they are your decisions, so stop pretending otherwise and man up.

UPDATE: I thought everybody might get a kick out this. Governor Walker's weekend fishing trip was not exactly what he hoped for. He caught no fish, but he did catch the attention of dozens of protestors who followed him around the lake by boat, silently holding up signs.

Originally posted to Giles Goat Boy on Sun May 08, 2011 at 07:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive.

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