The latest turn of events in the seesaw election battle between Justice David Prosser and JoAnne Kloppenburg over a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat has Justice Prosser surging back into the lead. Earlier, Kathy Nickolaus, the Republican Waukesha County Clerk had failed to include the town of Brookfield in the unofficial totals she released after Tuesday's election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. This had Kloppenburg in the lead at the end of the unofficial counting. In the official canvassing that followed the discrepancy was discovered. Democrats cried foul.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) raised the possibility of an independent investigation over the recovery of the votes.
"This is a serious breach of election procedure," he said. "We're going to look further. She waited 24 hours to work this. And she waited until after she verified the results, making it that much more difficult to challenge and verify the results."
'We went over everything'
But at the news conference with Nickolaus, Ramona Kitzinger, the Democrat on the Waukesha County Board of Canvassers, said: "We went over everything and made sure all the numbers jibed up and they did. Those numbers jibed up, and we're satisfied they're correct."
As a Democrat, she said, "I'm not going to stand here and tell you something that's not true."
Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas, who sat in on Nickolaus' news conference, said voters can be confident in the results because "all the votes are in that office. If anyone wants to look at them and verify, they can."
The latest revised vote totals put the incumbent Republican far enough ahead of Democratic challenger that an automatic recount may not be triggered.
The election is significant because of a pair of decisions by Democratic Judge Maryann Sumi who ruled that a law stripping Wisconsin public employee unions of some of their bargaining powers was not properly passed by the Wisconsin legislature. The issue is destined for the Wisconsin Supreme Court which currently has a 4-3 Republican majority. If Democrat JoAnne Kloppenburg wins the court swings to a 4-3 Democratic majority.
It has been a contentious issue that first came to national attention when Wisconsin's minority Democrats fled the state rather than vote on an earlier version of the aforementioned bill. Governor Scott Walker included the curtailment of union entitlements as part of a effort to close a $3-plus billion state budget deficit. By fleeing the state, Democrats prevented a vote by preventing the assembly of the three-fifths quorum required by Wisconsin law for the passage of fiscal bills.
The Wisconsin legislature, in turn, passed the union related provisions separately. Since they were unattached to a fiscal bill the three-fifths quorum, and the missing Democrats, were not needed for passage. Governor Scott Walker signed the bill into law.
In rode Judge Sumi to the rescue. She ruled that Wisconsin's open meeting law was violated because insufficient public notice was provided. Her remedy was to rule the new law is not and cannot be in effect. Legal minds will ponder the validity of that ruling at the next stop which is the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Prior to Judge Sumi's rulings Kloppenburg's chances for victory stood somewhere between slim and none. In a February four way primary Prosser garnered 55-percent of the vote to Kloppenburg's 25-percent. Not even close.
Incumbent David Prosser and Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg have advanced to the April election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Prosser, a justice for 12 years, received 55-percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary. Kloppenburg had 25-percent. Marla Stephens, head of the public defender’s appellate division, was eliminated with 11-percent of the vote. Madison attorney Joel Winnig placed fourth with nine-percent. Just over 400-thousand total votes were cast in a primary that was expected to get a 10-percent statewide turnout.
Once Judge Sumi ruled union money poured into the Kloppenburg campaign. Union money for Kloppenburg was countered by Republican and Tea Party money for the Prosser campaign. For both sides a considerable share came from outside Wisconsin, but the decision was ultimately made by Wisconsin voters. The election day voter turnout of 1.4 million where the primary turnout was around 400,000.
The outcome will reverberate as federal and state governments try to reign in out of control budgets. Unions provide impetus for government spending by the pressure they bring to bear in favor of higher wages and benefits for public employees, as well as pressure to expand government payrolls and thus union membership.
A key provision, maybe the key provision, in the new Wisconsin law is elimination of mandatory union dues which are automatically collected from employee paychecks. Union dues are largely put to work on political initiatives almost exclusively on behalf of the Democratic party. With the legally mandated levy and collection of union dues, what you have in effect is the weight of government brought to bear on behalf of a political party -- the Democrats. It's no wonder they're fighting so hard.