Wisconsin recall spotlight shines on Waukesha county clerk Kathy Nickolaus
GREEN BAY, Wisc. — The Waukesha county clerk who bungled vote counts in two recent Wisconsin elections has agreed to step aside in the counting of tonight’s gubernatorial recall results. But critics say there’s no guarantee that Kathy Nickolaus still won’t be involved in the race between Gov. Scott Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Calling themselves the The Concerned Citizens of Waukesha County, a group of residents emailed County Executive Dan Vrakas Monday and requested that County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus be banned from Tuesday’s election.
That group says it is bipartisan, but in reality its mostly comprised of Democrats who have raised concern about Nickolaus. A spokesman for We Are Wisconsin, the labor-backed coalition supporting Barrett, called her “the most incompetent or corrupt election clerk in America”, adding: “All evidence suggests she’s fully in charge.” (Talk about not pulling your punches!)
A heavily Republican county near Milwaukee, Waukesha will be closely watched as a guage of how enthusiastic the GOP base is for Walker. In a sign of how critical the county is to Walker’s hope, he’s holding his victory party there tonight.
In last year’s contentious state Supreme Court election, Nickolaus left numbers from Brookfield out of the count and did not report the error for two days. The new totals gave Justice David Prosser the lead over JoAnne Kloppenburg, who initially appeared victorious.
Democrats reacted with outrage over the race, which had become an early proxy war over Walker’s reforms. A recount was held and a state investigation found that Nickolaus violated the law by failing to post all returns on election night.
She came under fire again during this spring’s Republican presidential primary,when results from Waukesha were hours behind and plans to post the totals online fell through. Reporters were left to sort through pieces of paper taped to walls.
In April, Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas told Nickolaus to step aside or resign in advance of the recall. She chose to step aside and let her deputy, Kelly Yaeger, take control. But in the recall primary, Nickolaus was found in her office, counting returns.
The county told a local news station that it won’t file a restraining order against Nickolaus but the citizens’ group is welcome to observe proceedings. Shawn Lundie, Vrakas’ chief of staff, told the Plum Line, “She will not be involved in the vote counting this evening.”