Republican Kathy Nickolaus may be the only county clerk known by name across Wisconsin—and not for a good reason.
Last year, Nickolaus, the top election official in Waukesha County, a solidly Republican suburb outside of Milwaukee, blamed “human error” for the late discovery of more than 14,000 missing votes in a bruising state Supreme Court race. Those votes erased liberal favorite JoAnne Kloppenburg’s lead in the race, handed victory to conservative incumbent David Prosser, and later led to an expensive recount. This April, Nickolaus resorted to posting election results on strips of grocery-receipt-like paper after the county’s reporting system failed on election night.
After the April controversy, Nickolaus pledged to step down from handling the county’s election operations. But ahead of Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election on June 5, the most expensive election in state history, recent evidence suggests Nickolaus still has control over the county’s vote-counting. Observers and news reports from the recall’s May 8 primary say Nickolaus looked like her usual self on election night. The WTMJ news station reported that Nickolaus “appeared to be very much in charge of the count.” Says another observer, who asked to remain anonymous to speak openly: “On election night, Kathy Nickolaus was there, and she made it seem as if she was in control.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board has also demanded Nickolaus’ resignation. “How can the citizens of Waukesha have any confidence that something else won’t go wrong in the next election; something that will call into question the results?” the board asked in April. “They can’t as long as Nickolaus remains in office.” But although Nickolaus has said she won’t run for reelection, she remains in her job—and, if the May 8 primary is any indication, she’s still supervising elections.