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Wisconsin Republicans Claim Another Win

"Human error" decides tight race in Wisconsin state Supreme Court elections


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Story Transcript

On Thursday, April 7, several thousand previously uncounted votes were discovered in

the Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice elections, upsetting JoAnne Kloppenburg’s initial

victory as fluctuating vote counts appeared to give incumbent Justice David Prosser a

comfortable lead. Kloppenburg, a previously little-known progressive candidate, had

declared victory in the elections following an initial ballot count on Wednesday that gave

her a slim 204 vote lead over Prosser. Prosser has served as a justice for 12 years and is

widely considered to be a conservative ally of Governor Scott Walker.

Election officials cited a computer error as the main cause of the miscount, which

did not include some 7,000 plus votes from the City of Brookfield in traditionally

Republican voting Waukesha County. According to 2010 Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

report, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus had been criticized for her insistence

on using an antiquated personal computer to collect and store election data rather than

updating equipment to the statewide system standards that were applied everywhere

else. Mary Spicuzza of the Wisconsin State Journal noted on her Twitter that “Kathy

Nickolaus worked for Assembly Republican Caucus when Prosser was Speaker. Caucus

is controlled by speaker, so he is her former boss.”

On Tuesday, April 5th, Wisconsin voters took to the polls in the first elections held

since Wisconsin Governor Walker took office and introduced a string of controversial

legislation including a provision that would eliminate collective bargaining rights for

most public employees. Many predict that the outcome of the election, referred to

by some as a referendum on Walker’s policies, could have serious implications on

the outcome of Walker’s budget bill and anti-collective bargaining provision that are

currently under litigation in a circuit court.

Elections for the position of state Supreme Court Justice would normally receive little

attention, with the long-standing incumbents often securing a victory with little contest.

However, the political struggle between state Republicans and popular opposition to

Walker’s Budget Repair Bill quickly pushed the election to the national fore as it became

less about the Supreme Court and more symbolic of an electoral effort to mobilize in

defense of workers’ rights.

While election results remained up in the air with totals switching back and forth between

the two candidates, the election has still proved to be significant for Wisconsin regardless

of its outcome. With nearly 1.5 million votes cast, 19 Wisconsin counties that previously

voted for Governor Walker in 2010 elections flipped in the Supreme Court election by

voting for Kloppenburg rather than Walker’s ally Prosser.

The election also set a record for the most money spent by special interest groups on TV

ads in the state of Wisconsin with both sides pouring in a combined total of over $3.5

million dollars in the contest. The aggressive nature of some of the tv spots reflected

some of the tensions that have been simmering in Wisconsin and the United States over

labor issues such as the right to collective bargaining.

Public opinion, both on state and national levels, has shifted against Governor Walker

and his stance against collective bargaining, with a recent Gallup poll finding that 48%

of Americans agree more with the unions as opposed to 39% who agree more with

governors in state labor disputes.

Meanwhile in Washington, Republican and Democratic Congressmen had failed to reach

an agreement on the federal budget as Thursday came to a close. Government officials

and hundreds or thousands of federal employees prepared for the possibility of the first

government shutdown since 1995, which would halt all non-essential and defense-related

government functions until a deal is reached.