The best thing that can be thought with regard to Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus is that she is the most manifestly incompetent election official in the history of Wisconsin.
The alternative, of course, is to believe that Nickolaus is the most manifestly disreputable election official in the history of Wisconsin.
Whatever the case, she will leave the clerk’s office at the end of her current term under a cloud of shame. The Republican partisan will not run for re-election this fall after a year that brought her mangled management of her office to light.
First, she failed to notice that her “final count” of Waukesha County votes in the 2011 state Supreme Court race did not include the city of Brookfield. Then, after the rest of the state reported a victory for challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, she found enough votes to reverse the result and secure the re-election of Justice David Prosser — with whom she had worked as a staffer for the scandal-plagued Assembly Republican caucus.
If that wasn’t enough, she screwed up this year’s Republican presidential primary, forcing reporters and campaign aides to add the vote totals up themselves after the bizarrely complicated system Nickolaus had developed for reporting results broke down. Things melted down so completely that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called on Nickolaus to resign.
If these were isolated incidents, they would have been bad enough. But they were part of a pattern that saw her office get the results wrong for local and state contests so frequently that the conservative stalwart was sanctioned by the conservative Waukesha County Board.
The most positive thing that can be said about Nickolaus is that she was not up to the job she is now preparing to leave after 10 years.
Unfortunately, she will not step down until the end of her term. That means Nickolaus could still screw up recall elections and this fall’s state and national elections. While is was reported after the Republican presidential primary meltdown that she was relinquishing some of her election oversight duties, Nickolaus now says: “I am the Waukesha County constitutional officer charged with the responsibility of elections.”
That’s a frightening statement. Wisconsinites who want to safeguard the integrity of the election process will have reason to be wary of Nickolaus until the day she leaves an office she should never have held.
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