MJS: More reports surface from Waukesha that Kathy Nickolaus is still in charge

June 5, 2012

While Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas and his chief of staff insisted both Monday and Tuesday that County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus is not the one in charge of election duties this recall election, her actions say otherwise.

While Nickolaus has refused to respond to this reporter's questions in her office, turning her back and closing her office door while the reporter waited at a service counter, her deputy, Kelly Yaeger, hasn't responded, either.

Nickolaus has been observed passing out election supplies to local clerks leading up to Tuesday's election, and she's the one who's fielded questions Tuesday from the field, said Gina Kozlik, Waukesha's deputy clerk-treasurer.

Shawm Lundie, Vrakas' chief of staff, said he was confident procedures put in place with Yaeger will assure smooth reporting of votes Tuesday night. He also said Yaeger, while fully competent, is free to ask Nickolaus to assist her.

On Tuesday, Vrakas responded to complaints that Nickolaus was running the election: "It's absolutely not true. She agreed to step aside and hand off her duties to Kelly and that has occurred."

Meanwhile, an observer with the Democratic Party, Jordon Primakow, said Nickolaus has been cooperative as he sits in her reception area, where he arrived at 7:30 a.m. He plans to stay until votes are in.

"They've been helpful with me when I had questions," he said.

He called the morning fairly quiet, with scattered reports of problems relayed by Nickolaus to him, including a jammed machine in Oconomowoc that was quickly replaced.

He said only Nickolaus has approached him with updates, not Yaeger.

Nickolaus drew criticism last year during a tight state Supreme Court race when she announced nearly two days after the election that she failed to include 14,000 votes from Brookfield in her unofficial totals. The error helped lead to a statewide, taxpayer-financed recount and flipped what appeared to be a close loss for Justice David Prosser to a 7,000-vote victory.

Results have been slow in other races, as well. During the April 3 election, Nickolaus failed to post timely election results online and update them periodically for the public, as promised.

Citizens checking for results online were left in the dark for hours after voting ended, while reporters and data collectors for election reporting services resorted to tabulating contested races from yards of paper tapes hanging on walls around a meeting room. The process was akin to reading a long grocery receipt where, in some cases, the tape stretched down the wall and onto the floor in a heap.

Unlike the previous fiascos, the May reporting went relatively smoothly. Nickolaus' office does not count votes. Municipal clerks and poll workers do that job. They report results to the county clerk, and she is responsible for reporting the unofficial county results and canvassing for official results days later.

Under a new system of reporting put in place in May under pressure from Vrakas, local municipal clerks enter the data into a state canvass reporting system, rather than relying on the county to accumulate that data. The county clerk's office then relays that information to the public.

Lundie said Tuesday night, two 19-inch monitors will provide precinct breakdowns of votes for anyone in the meeting room next to the county clerk's office. In addition, an overhead projector screen will give updates in the Waukesha County results about every 10 minutes.

Lundie noted that vote-watchers can see the identical information on the county clerk's web site and Twitter account @WCCountyClerk as the evening goes on.