Waukesha – A conservative-leaning Wisconsin county on Thursday corrected its count and gave an unofficial 7,500-vote lead to the incumbent in the hotly contested state Supreme Court race seen as a referendum on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s divisive union rights law.
Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said the votes weren’t reported to The Associated Press on Tuesday due to “human error.”
“This is not a case of extra votes or extra ballots being found,” she said. “This is human error, which I apologize for.”
Before the announcement, it was assumed 68-year-old conservative Justice David Prosser’s race against liberal assistant state attorney general JoAnne Kloppenburg was headed for a recount. But Prosser’s lead is likely to stand if the new numbers hold up through canvassing in all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.
Opponents of the union rights law had hoped a Kloppenburg victory would set the stage for the high court to strike it down.
Messages left with both Kloppenburg and Prosser’s campaigns were not immediately returned.
The count was corrected on the first day that counties were in the process of verifying unofficial vote totals reported Tuesday. The race was so close, despite 1.5 million votes being cast, that the lead flipped back and forth repeatedly on election day and in the days after as those preliminary totals were checked and updated.
Walker told The Associated Press before details of the new votes were announced that voters will demand transparency.
“The overriding principle has got to be that every vote that was legally cast in Wisconsin needs to be counted,” Walker said.
The surprise discovery of votes that could give Prosser the win and quash any recount before it starts already had liberal groups crying foul.
Nickolaus is a former Republican staff member in the Assembly Republican Caucus and has been criticized in the past by the Waukesha County Board for how she handled elections and lacked oversight over her operations.
Liberal group One Wisconsin Now issued a release highlighting those concerns.
“There is a history of secrecy and partisanship surrounding the Waukesha County Clerk and there remain unanswered questions,” said the group’s director Scot Ross.