The wildly fluctuating (and closely observed) Wisconsin state Supreme Court election changed again dramatically Thursday evening as incumbent Justice David Prosser gained some 7,500 votes, owing to a human counting error in Waukesha County, a Republican stronghold some thirty miles west of Milwaukee.
As a result, challenger JoAnne Klopenburg now trails by some 7,000 votes. Unofficial returns on Wednesday gave Klopenburg a lead by some 200 votes, but that margin had been narrowed to 40 by Thursday afternoon. The uncounted votes--nearly 15,000 in all--were found as officials were conducting state-wide canvasses.
In describing how this happened, the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reported that:
Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said Thursday that she failed to save in her computer and consequently report 14,315 votes cast in the city of Brookfield, omitting them entirely in an unofficial tally released after Tuesday's election. The new totals give 10,859 more votes to Prosser from Brookfield and 3,456 more to Kloppenburg, she said.
At a press conference following the discovery, Nickalaus, her voice wavering, said:
I'm thankful that this error was caught early in the process. This is not a case of extra ballots being found. This is human error which I apologize for, which is common.
While this may sound suspicious to some, the reigning Democrat on the Waukesha County Board of Canvassers has blessed the recount:
We went over everything and made sure all the numbers jibed up and they did. Those numbers jibed up and we're satisfied they're correct.
Still, the bombshell discovery has rocked the state of Wisconsin and blown open what was a back and forth race that is widely viewed as a referendum on Governor Scott Walker's efforts to curb the collective bargaining power of the state's public unions.