Waukesha Followup: Election Problems Can Be Costly in Many Ways – But Especially the Money Kind


[Image courtesy of Waukesha County Clerk]

Waukesha County, WI has made a number of appearances here – first in the wake of the disputed State Supreme Court election last year and then again in April when vote-counting problems delayed the results in the state’s primary. In the wake of those problems, County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus agreed to relinquish her election duties and ultimately decided not to seek re-election after coming under fire from county officials concerned about the performance of the office.

Now, a new report prepared at the request of the county reveals that election problems not only created delays and confusion but ultimately cost the county money – over a quarter of million dollars – to fix. According to JSOnline:

After the April election, [County Executive Dan] Vrakas told the county Department of Administration to hire a consultant “to get to the bottom of what the problems were,” said Norm Cummings, director of administration. The full report from SysLogic Inc., a Brookfield consulting firm, was not immediately available Monday, but some of its findings are briefly summarized in a funding measure being considered by the County Board.

SysLogic linked the April problems to an upgrade that Nickolaus ordered in the county’s election software before the balloting. The firm found that Nickolaus was the only person trained to program the upgraded software, but she “did not follow the proper protocol, resulting in the failure of the functionality to compile election results,” the fund transfer ordinance says.

After Nickolaus stepped aside, Command Central LLC, the Minnesota election software vendor, wasn’t able to arrange training for other county staffers until late August, Cummings said. That led the county to hire Command Central to program the software itself for the May 8 recall primary, the June 5 recall general election and the upcoming Aug. 14 primary, at a cost of $237,300, he said.

The SysLogic report cost $15,000, for a total of $256,300 to investigate and fix the election reporting problems, the funding measure says. That money will come from the county’s contingency fund, if the County Board agrees.

Hopefully things in Waukesha (and elsewhere in Wisconsin, which has had a challenging year) will revert to a less exciting state in the near future. But the events of the last year in Waukesha are an important reminder that election officials are not just responsible to citizens as voters but also as taxpayers – and that failure to administer elections properly can not only affect individuals’ votes but hit their pocketbooks as well.

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