April 7, 2011- In a political bombshell, the clerk in a Republican stronghold is set to release new vote totals giving 7,500 votes in the state Supreme Court race back toward Justice David Prosser, swinging the race significantly in his favor.
The Waukesha County clerk's office has told state elections officials that they will be adjusting the vote totals to give incumbent David Prosser more than 7,000 new votes, said Mike Haas, staff attorney for the state Government Accountability Board.
"Waukesha will be adjusting their vote totals by 14,000," Haas said the Accountability Board was told.
The numbers will add some 11,000 votes for Prosser and some 3,000 for Kloppenburg, he said.
The new numbers may provide some clarity to a race that had appeared to be headed toward the first statewide recount in two decades and provided a new surprise for a state that had already faced two months of chaotic politics.
Around the state, elections officials Thursday were tweaking unofficial results from the day before that had put challenger and Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg ahead of Prosser by a razor-thin 204 votes. But the new figures appearing to put Prosser ahead were also far from final, and could change multiple times before the contest is finished.
In other changes:
• In Winnebago County, officials now say Prosser received 20,701 votes to Kloppenburg's 18,887. On Wednesday, the Associated Press – which gathers the votes for most of the media in Wisconsin — had 19,991 for Prosser to Kloppenburg's 18,421.
• In Kenosha, Prosser picked up 33 votes in the Town of Randall and 27 votes on the Town of Bristol, and the canvass is still going on.
• In Waukesha County, David Prosser picked up 200 votes in New Berlin after a clerical error was discovered.
• In Grant County, Prosser lost 116 votes when officials completed their canvass Thursday. The count was off in part because the Town of Smelser incorrectly reported the count for paper ballots that voters cast after the regular ballots ran out, County Clerk Linda Gebhardt said. The town reported 294 votes for Prosser, but later corrected the figure to 194, Gebhardt said.
The list of changes rolled on in county after county, and reflected the important distinction in such a close election between the preliminary set of numbers and the final set. In most elections, the margin of error is such that it doesn't really matter – there's a clear winner, and that doesn't change days later when the final numbers come in and the state certifies the results.
In this case, the preliminary numbers were so close that the margin of error clearly matters.
Brian Nemoir, campaign manager for Prosser, said on Thursday afternoon he expects the totals to remain fluid.
"Everything we're hearing right now indicates that we're going to be in a recount," Nemoir said. "There's not anything that's going to decide this today or tomorrow."
An editor at the AP said the news service became aware of the discrepancy in Winnebago in the early afternoon Thursday. The AP had last checked figures with Winnebago County at 10:14 a.m. Wednesday, according to the AP. The county adjusted its figures at 2:27 p.m.
Nemoir said that he has an observer in the Winnebago County canvassing reporting a similar discrepancy in the numbers. But he emphasized that other counties will also see changes, noting that Prosser apparently has lost a single vote in Pepin County.
County boards of canvassers began meeting Thursday morning to start the process of checking and certifying election results in the race.