Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Democrat on Waukesha County vote panel speaks out

Kitzinger 'shocked' in retrospect not to have been told of major error

April 11, 2011- The Democrat on the Waukesha County Board of Canvassers who was widely quoted as endorsing the county clerk's official ballot count that flipped the state Supreme Court winner last week said Monday that she was never told about more than 14,000 missing votes from the city of Brookfield until shortly before a Thursday news conference.

By then, the three-member board had finished its canvass, which had started midday Wednesday.

The Waukesha County Democratic Party released a statement Monday ascribed to Ramona Kitzinger, 80, a member of the canvassing board since 2004.

In the statement, Kitzinger said that even during the canvass of Brookfield's votes during the day Thursday, no mention was made of the big mistake, something in retrospect she called "shocking and somewhat appalling."

Meanwhile, in Madison, the state's top election official referred to "apparent negligence" by Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus. At a news conference Monday, Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the Government Accountability Board, said she needs to change her practices to bolster public confidence.

The state agency will not certify the election results until it finishes its review of what happened in Waukesha County, board spokesman Reid Magney said.

Nickolaus did not respond Monday to requests for comment about Kitzinger's and Kennedy's statements.

In her news conference Thursday in Waukesha, Nickolaus had said she had failed to save Brookfield's 14,315 votes on a computer before she reported the unofficial results to the media on election night. The bulk of those votes went to incumbent Justice David Prosser and gave him about a 7,500-vote lead over Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, who had earlier led by 204 votes. Nickolaus called it human error and apologized.

Asked then by reporters how a Democrat in this Republican stronghold felt about the change, Kitzinger said that "all the numbers jibed up, and we're satisfied they're correct. I'm not going to stand here and tell you something that's not true."

But in the statement released Monday by the county Democrats, she wrote:

"I am still very, very confused about why the canvass was finalized before I was informed of the Brookfield error, and it wasn't even until the news conference was happening that I learned it was this enormous mistake that could swing the whole election. I was never shown anything that would verify Kathy's statement about the missing vote, and with how events unfolded and people citing me as an authority on this now, I feel I must speak up."

Victor Weers, chairman of the Waukesha County Democratic Party, said that because of national attention to Kitzinger's statement and angry emails over it, party members talked to Kitzinger and solicited more details. The words in the statement are her own, Weers said. Kitzinger could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon, and Weers said she is not granting interviews.

Kitzinger said she was "instructed that I would not say anything at the news conference, and was actually surprised when I was asked questions by reporters." Nickolaus was seen gently trying to move Kitzinger back from the microphone after her initial statements Thursday.

Kennedy and others have criticized Nickolaus' failure to inform them on Wednesday about the untabulated Brookfield votes. The news came a day later.

FULL STORY HERE:


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