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GAB announces plan to speed Waukesha election reports

Municipal clerks to enter results directly into Web system

April 24, 2012

By Laurel Walker of the Journal Sentinel

April 24, 2012 0

Waukesha - Vote results from throughout Waukesha County should be available online more quickly in the recall elections because municipal clerks will be entering unofficial results directly into a state vote canvass reporting system, rather than leaving it to the county clerk's staff.

Those results will simultaneously be available to the Waukesha County clerk's office, which is still responsible for posting results on election night.

In a statement Tuesday, Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel for the Government Accountability Board, said the agency created Wisconsin's canvass reporting system using a federal grant in 2010 so county clerks could use it to report canvass results - the official totals that are checked several days after an election - to the state electronically.

However, the Web-based system was built with a tool for municipal clerks to enter unofficial results on election night. Kennedy said all Waukesha County municipal clerks will be asked to use that tool for the May 8 primaries and the June 5 recalls.

The process means that local clerks do not have to drive voting machine tapes into the county clerk's office in Waukesha after polls close, as they did April 3, so that she and her staff can enter the data.

At the April 3 election, that's the hitch that delayed vote reporting for many hours. Once voting tapes were delivered to the county clerk, an attempt to upload vote totals from the machine memory packs failed. Instead, a few staff members had to manually enter every vote total for every candidate in every district before a report could be issued.

Meanwhile, reporters and others wanting more timely results were left to manually calculate contest totals from voting machine tapes hung from walls by the yard.

After two elections in which the county clerk's vote reporting snafus attracted widespread criticism, Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas pressured County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, who is independently elected, to either resign or hand off her election duties to her deputy clerk. Nickolaus turned over the election duties to her deputy, Kelly Yaeger. Nickolaus, however, is assisting Yaeger.

In the upcoming recalls, it'll be up to municipal clerks to manually enter the vote totals.

Waukesha's deputy clerk Gina Kozlik said the job will get done professionally. However, she has concerns because now her staff and poll workers, who normally will work a 14-hour election day, will be responsible for combining three totals for each polling place - totals from the ballot-scanning machine, the touch-screen machine and absentee ballots, which are hand-counted - before entering them into the state canvass system.

About Laurel Walker
Laurel Walker covered local, school and county government for 20 years -- the last half of that at the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -- before she was named Waukesha County columnist in 1997. Today she writes about the people, places and events around metropolitan Milwaukee with a broad suburban focus. She was the youngest of nine children raised on a central Wisconsin farm before leaving the nest for journalism studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a masters degree at the University of Oregon. She has spent the last half of her life in Waukesha County, where she and her husband raised two sons. Though she has a fondness for life in Waukesha, she eagerly partakes in the culture of the big city to the east and the recreation of the forests to the west. With sons in the arts, she has a special fondness for symphonic music concerts and art museums. She finds peace in a good book at a Northwoods getaway weekend, adventure in family visits to the east and west coasts, and satisfaction in a column well-written that reaches readers.
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