Chain of custody violations continue to emerge, particularly in Waukesha, during state Supreme Court election 'recount'
ALSO: $25,000 reward offered for evidence of WI election tampering…
May 5, 2011- Five out of six bags of ballots from first batch to be counted out of the City of Brookfield in Waukesha County, WI today, were discovered "almost wide open" during Day 9 of the statewide Supreme Court election "recount". The bags were open and unsealed, according to both photographic evidence and an eye-witnesses account from the counting room. (Many more exclusive photos posted below.)
"When the ballot bags were taken out and placed upon the counting table, we were literally stunned," one of the citizen observers, Mary Magnuson, a Kloppenburg volunteer, told The BRAD BLOG this morning. "5 out of the 6 ballot bags were almost literally wide open, and ballots could be clearly seen."
The ballots in those bags were among the 14,000 said to have been cast in the April 5th election, but left off of Waukesha County's tally as reported to the media on Election Night.
Earlier this week we offered a detailed report on the status of the statewide "recount", highlighting a host of disturbing and outright violations of the chain of custody of ballots, including unnumbered and renumbered ballots bags (many of them from Waukesha County); ballots discovered unsecured and/or left out of the original count all together; and exceedingly sloppy record-keeping and reporting of "recount" results by the state's chief election agency, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.). In sum, we described the state of the "recount" of the contested election between Republican incumbent Justice David Prosser and his independent challenger Asst. AG JoAnne Kloppenburg, as "a mess".
Today, after the newest revelations from the Waukesha County counting room, it got a lot messier.
"We are finding significant anomalies, including chain of custody and missing ballots, that we need to shine light on," Kloppenburg campaign manager Melissa Mulliken told The BRAD BLOG earlier this week, while we were working on our previous story. The anomalies she was referring to, given where today's unsecured ballots are said to come from, have gotten much more "significant" in the past few hours…
'Widest gap seen so far'
Magnuson quoted retired Circuit Court Judge Robert Mawdsley — appointed by the G.A.B. to oversee Waukesha's count in place of controversial County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus who recused herself in light of several ongoing investigations into her handling of election results — as saying that the opening in one of the ballot bags from the City of Brookfield, was "the widest gap we have seen in ANY of the bags so far."
Moreover, in addition to the open ballots bags, one of them had its serial number crossed out and then replaced by another number to match the one seen on the plastic zip-cord "seal" still attached to the bag — another chain of custody violation. Also, yesterday, ballot bags with six-inch openings in the top, large enough to pull ballots in and out of, were also discovered from Waukesha's Village of Elm Grove. (See more photos of all below.)
The new anomalies come on top of similarly disturbing chain of custody violations previously discovered in at least eight other "counting units", mostly in Waukesha, but elsewhere in the state as well.
According to the eye-witness Magnuson today, when the unsecured Brookfield ballots were discovered, legal counsel for Kloppenburg "objected to the ballots even being counted and/or included, due to the extremely evident lack of security insofar as the ballots were concerned." Nonetheless the Kloppenburg volunteer observer told The BRAD BLOG, "Prosser's counsel argued in favor of counting the ballots and Judge Mawdsley ruled in favor of counting them."
Kloppenburg excercised her right to this "recount" after the unverified results of the post-election canvass by all 72 counties in the Badger State found her to be just 7,316 votes shy of Prosser out of some 1.5 million ballots cast in the hotly-contested April 5th election. The 0.488% unofficial margin entitled her to a state-sponsored count, which she requested after learning that some 14,000 votes from the City of Brookfield were allegedly left out of Waukesha County's originally reported Election Night tally.
It is those votes which were scheduled to be "recounted" today in Waukesha and discovered to have been left wide open in unsecured bags, as documented in photographs taken by Magnuson who has been observing the count for several days over the past week since counting began last Wednesday.
The 'Recount': Verifying questionable results for the first time
The majority of votes cast in Wisconsin are on hand-marked paper ballots, but are then scanned by oft-failed and easily-manipulated electronic tabulating optical-scan computers made by companies like Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia without being checked for accuracy by human beings. Thus, our use of quotes around the word "recount", since almost all of the ballots cast in the crucial statewide election have never, until now, been examined for accuracy by any human being.
The stunning announcement of those 14,000 votes from the City of Brookfield, two days after the April 5th election, reversed what had originally been reported as an exceedingly slim (and unverified) "win" for Kloppenburg on Election Night. The Supreme Court race had become a referendum on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's controversial move to strip rights from citizens to collectively bargain with the state. Supporters of both candidates spent millions in outside advertising in the closing days of the contest.
Brookfield's game-changing votes were revealed to have been missed during a remarkable press conference on the night of April 7th, held by Prosser's former colleague and long-time GOP activist, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus. She is now under investigation for past election irregularities as well, including the recent discovery of some 20,000 more votes reported than the number said to have been cast in the county's 2006 general election.
Nickolaus waited nearly two days before notifying state officials or her own Board of Canvassers to her discovery of what she described as "human error" in failing to report the Brookfield totals on Election Night. The Kloppenburg campaign has asked for a special independent investigation into the matter.
The unsecured ballots from the City of Brookfield
Below are a number of photographs taken this afternoon in the Waukesha County, WI counting room, of ballot bags from Wards 1, 2 and 3 in the City of Brookfield.
The plastic orange zip-cord tie attached to each bag is supposed to be a tamper-evident "seal". Each one has a serial number that is also supposed to match the one written on the bag's label, which is signed by two witnesses. The numbers are also supposed to match the one on the "Inspector's Report" filed on Election Night. (In our report earlier this week we detailed bags from the Town of Delafield, also in Waukesha County, which were missing serial numbers altogether or had their serial number scratched out and replaced by another.)
As Magnuson explained via email today…
"This morning, at the Waukesha County recount, things began, as usual. We were waiting to count the City of Brookfield, Wards 1, 2 and 3, when a representative from the County Clerk's office wheeled in the bin of information which included the inventory sheet, various envelopes, and, of course, the ballot bags.
"When the ballot bags were taken out and placed upon the counting table, we were literally stunned. 5 out of the 6 ballot bags were almost literally wide open, and ballots could be clearly seen. This, despite the fact that seals were around the top; still, the sides remained very clearly open with three different colors of ballots within"…
"Also made on the record was that the identifying number (or serial number) on bag 4, had been crossed out and replaced with another (serial, or identifying) number on the bag itself.
"Counsel for JoAnne Kloppenburg made that a part of the record, as well"…
Late this evening, Magnuson told us, "In the afternoon, six other ballot bags were pulled out when we opened the second bin for City of Brookfield, Wards 4, 5 & 6. Four of those bags had numbers scratched off of little white labels affixed to the bag."
"When the Kloppenburg representative asked the Brookfield City Clerk Kristine Schmidt for an explanation," of those labels and scratch-outs, says Magnuson, "she said, 'I don't know'".