Skip to main content

So, on Monday I saw this great diary by yourguide about irregularities in Waukesha county going back to 2004. Among irregularities including 96% turnout in Waukesha (holy voting pride, batman!) I noticed a gem in that diary about the Nov 2006 election votes exceeding the total ballots reported, and I knew that it needed to be highlighted so I started this diary on Monday.

To paraphrase:
Waukesha county lists 156k ballots cast, but more than 176k for Governor and 174k for Attorney General (a race that Walker-lackey Van Hollen won by only 8859 votes statewide). Well by Tuesday the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had picked up on the story and asked Kathy Nickolaus for comment. On Tuesday, Kathy claims: Oops! Not Intended To Be A Factual Statement!

*The Number of Ballots Cast do not reflect all results, only those electronically sent.
(Ballots cast will not be equal to official votes cast)

That was added on Tuesday to the Waukesha county elections website. Obviously, ballots totals Not Intended To Be A Factual Statement. There's an asterisk up there now, see!

After some ridicule about that initial update from her office, Kathy Nickolaus had to re-clarify things on the Waukesha county elections website. Now at the top of the page:

What does Ballot Cast mean in the summary reports?

Ballot Cast is the number of ballots that were fed through the election machines at the polling places and the results were collected using a modem in the office. It does NOT include any hand entered results.
Number of Votes in a particular contest or race is the number of votes certified after canvassing. The results collected using a modem and any results hand entered in the office on election night.

Why would the ballots cast be higher than the number of people that voted in a specific contest or race?
The ballots cast are not adjusted when a person doesn’t vote for that contest, a person votes for too many people in that contest, a person sends through a blank ballot, or when a person writes in a statement instead of a name and is not counted as a vote in the scattering section.

Why would the ballots cast be lower than the number of people that voted in a specific contest or race?
The ballots cast would be lower if a portion of the results were entered by hand.

How can the percentage of turnout be so high?
Waukesha County is known for higher than State average turnout.  In addition the turnout is calculated using the number of registered voters, prior to Election Day.  As Wisconsin allows for Election Day registration the turnout number would be skewed dependent on the number of people that registered Election Day.

Naturally, I was skeptical.

Elections without asterisks, where votes do NOT exceed ballots
There are elections listed which have ballot totals, but the amount of votes DO NOT EXCEED the total number of ballots. These included EVERY election for 2003 through 2005. Every single election listed for those years (10 of them) has a total number of ballots listed, and it is never eclipsed by the total number of votes for any given candidate. Anyone know exactly what date Kathy Nickolaus started her job as Waukesha county clerk?

April 4, 2006 election
This is one of the asterisk'd elections, but no election data is provided for the April 4, 2006 election. The election data file for the April 3, 2007 election was renamed to:
and then uploaded as the linked page for the April 4, 2006 election. So the April 3, 2007 election data is shown for both elections.

Where's the election data for April 4, 2006 from Waukesha county? Likely an honest mistake in uploading the wrong file, but yet another sign of incompetence at the very least.

From 2006 on, Waukesha county stops listing ballot totals in results
As noted above, every election prior to 2006 lists the ballot totals. But in 2006, the results from Waukesha county stopped including those ballot totals in every election and merely show total votes now, with exceptions for 3 elections (Nov'06, Apr'07, Feb'10).

Why was the procedure changed in 2006 to no longer include ballot totals in every election's data, and who changed the procedure? What criteria did the Nov '06, Apr '07, and Feb '10 elections meet that allowed the ballot totals to be included on them, but not for every other election from 2006 onwards?

Now, of those 3 exceptions, only one had votes that exceeded the ballots: the Nov 2006 Attorney General's race. The is the ONLY election from Waukesha county that has this glaring discrepancy.

8 asterisk'd elections, but only one has ballot totals
I noticed that Kathy put asterisks next to elections which DID NOT REPORT BALLOT TOTALS.
Why would she put a footnote to indicate that the vote totals may exceed the ballot totals on election results that don't even show ballot totals?

She put asterisks next to 8 election results, but only 1 of those elections have ballot totals listed (Nov '06 AG race), making the footnote unneeded for the other 7 election results (note: April 4, 2006 has an *, but mistakenly shows the April 2007 data as noted earlier so this one is still up in the air).

What's the significance of the asterisks next to those other 7 elections? It's 7 elections where Kathy Nickolaus did not report ballot totals despite the normal procedure before 2006 of always reporting the ballot totals in every election.  The 7 extra asterisks, in my opinion, are a case of "Where there's smoke, there's fire."

Hand-entered results
Her explanation for why the votes exceed the ballots is because the number of ballots doesn't include all the ballots that the optical scanners can't read: a person votes for too many people in that contest, a person sends through a blank ballot, or enters a write-in. These are then counted by hand, but not reflected in the ballot total – or so she claims.

But this makes no sense either, because as I've shown, there's TWELVE (12!!!) elections in which votes do not exceed ballot totals. Every single one of those elections, presumably, would have these type of ballots that were not machine-readable and had to be hand-counted. And yet, in those 12 elections, all the hand-counted ballots WERE included in the total number of ballots.

There's only ONE election where there were somehow 17,243 ballots in Waukesha county that needed to be hand-counted, and then NOT included in the ballot totals as in previous and subsequent years. It was the November 2006 election for Attorney General, where Walker's guy Van Hollen won statewide by only 8,859 votes.

State investigating vote irregularities in Waukesha County going back 5 years
from the Wisconsin State Journal

And an excellent analysis by The Brad Blog


Do you believe Kathy's excuse that 17,243 ballots needed to be hand-counted in Waukesha county's 2006 AG race, but then not added into ballot totals like in previous and subsequent years?

78%129 votes
20%34 votes
0%1 votes
0%1 votes
0%0 votes

| 165 votes | Vote | Results

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Very suspicious, I agree. Keep on her! (7+ / 0-)

    Any change as glaring as that deserves a closer look, and the timing of it is just too convenient.

    Look at the impact you're having - Bravo!

    Which side are you on?

    by wiseacre on Fri Apr 15, 2011 at 12:54:13 AM PDT

  •  Every person who signed the vote register (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GrumpyOldGeek, FarWestGirl, dmh44

    in Waukesha when they "voted" in those elections should have to say under oath and at Risk of Perjury that will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the Law if they really did show up and vote and then they are all investigated.

    •  Actually I'm not sure they had to sign (0+ / 0-)

      a vote register in Waukesha County. In Dane County (where Madison is) there is no signing of a register. Here you walk up to the table where 4 people are sitting. Two of them are sitting by identical voter printouts. They ask you for your last name, first name and address. You provide that and each of those 2 people checks you off in his/her printout book.  Then the third person gives you a slip with a voter number printed on it. You hand that slip to the 4th person, who provides you with a blue ballot cover and a machine-read paper ballot to put inside the ballot cover. Then you go to a "voting booth", mark the arrows for your candidates on the ballot, then stuff the ballot into the voting machine. From what I've heard the actual voting procedure, type of ballot cast etc. varies from one locality to another.

      Regardless, the total number of votes cast should not exceed the number of ballots handed out on election day PLUS the number of absentee ballots that the polling place received, in sealed envelopes, from the municipal clerk's office.

      Fitzwalkerstan - Like feudal England, with serfdom but minus thatch roofs, open latrines and plague.

      by MouseNoMore on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 04:20:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Something else - record destruction rules (9+ / 0-)

    I spent some time reading through the WI statutes a couple of days ago.

    The record retention rules seem to be insanely convoluted on my first read.

    I noticed a questionable rule that discusses retention of secondary records of some sort. The statutes suggest to me that they're talking about things like adding machine tapes or paperwork where manual calculations are written down.

    It dawned on me that the Waukesha County records were being entered on a computer that was kept locked in another room, secure from others. Similar security is specified for these secondary records. Adding machine tapes are to be secured. (this is just my made up example, of course)

    The statutes specify a VERY short retention requirement for this class of material. A few days, iirc.

    Could this be a loophole that would let her get away with destroying the evidence on her computer before the investigators see it?

    Can someone more familiar with WI retention statutes review this?

    "All people are born alike - except Republicans and Democrats" - Groucho Marx

    by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Apr 15, 2011 at 02:19:23 AM PDT

  •  I really hope the investigation gets traction (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cieran, FarWestGirl

    It is deeply troubling to think that not only can corporations buy the elections courtesy of Citizens United, but their lackeys can also manipulate outcomes.

    In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves. " - Buddha Shakyamuni

    by Actbriniel on Fri Apr 15, 2011 at 03:44:07 AM PDT

  •  she was elected in 2002; who said "hand-counted"? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    standingup, Red Bean, On The Bus

    What Nickolaus wrote was that some results were "hand entered," not that the ballots were hand-counted.

    Incidentally, that is what the Milwaukee Journal-Bulletin reported happening in the primary. The article says, "Because Menomonee Falls and Mukwonago use a different brand of equipment than the rest of the county, those two municipalities were unable to file Tuesday's returns electronically with the county." It also says that Nickolaus hoped to have this fixed by November. Let's suppose for a moment that she didn't.

    OK, so the canvass report shows 156,804 ballots cast and 176,112 votes in the governor's race, a difference of 19,308. The state turnout report shows 177,424 voters, including 17,265 in Menomonee Falls and 2,591 in Mukwonago -- that's 19,856 votes. Am I a complete tool for suggesting that those two villages probably materially account for the "ballots cast" discrepancy? Even Kathy Nickolaus may be right once or twice a week.

    Assuming for a moment that that is wrong, what is the implication? That Nickolaus changed some or all of the vote counts without the municipal clerks or the canvass board noticing, but didn't bother to change the "ballots cast" number, even years later? That is logically possible, but I'm not sure why anyone thinks it is the most likely alternative.

    •  oh, I forgot (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      standingup, FarWestGirl

      Usually when someone makes a point like this, someone else indignantly asks why the first poster is trying to shut down questions and discourage investigations.

      I'm not. I myself am questioning and investigating. I think it's great for the state to investigate as thoroughly as possible. I just wonder if the people who recced this thread are prepared to accept the possibility that these numbers, at least, are legit.

  •  I too am (0+ / 0-)

    suspicious but also willing to wait for the investigation but the point must be made that without the outcry from Daily Kos commentators and people in Wisconsin - this would never be an issue at all - it seems too that many are trying to shut this down as irrational a bit too soon - and there seems to be an increasing number of 'off' facts associated with this woman and her work. I originally was just going to compliment the diarist on keeping the heat on till we do get an explanation . . .

  •  I do not believe that typically (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    10% of all ballots need to be processed by hand. I think it's more like 1%.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Fri Apr 15, 2011 at 07:23:25 AM PDT

  •  Her reason doesn't compute (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "The ballots cast are not adjusted when a person doesn’t vote for that contest, a person votes for too many people in that contest, a person sends through a blank ballot".

    That is called an undervote or an overvote. Undervotes are common: many people choose not to vote in every race because they are not familiar with the candidates. Overvotes are almost always detected when the machine spits back the ballot, and the voter fills out another ballot correctly. Write-ins are counted by the machine, and ballots with write-ins are dropped into a different compartment under the machine for hand recording of the name.

    In one canvass report I was able to find in another jurisdiction, the total of candidate votes, undervotes, overvotes, and write-ins exactly matched the number of votes cast at each polling place for each race. These different numbers are printed on the tape inside the optical scan machine. There is no reason that what Nickolous is asserting should ever happen.

    Also note that the results are transmitted by modem from the polling place. How secure is this? Can someone outside in the parking lot modify the data with a wireless device?

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site