Point Counter-Point: In light of the WI elections, does your vote count?
Every Vote Count
If every vote does not count, then what does? What is determining the winners and losers of elections? There were around 1.5 million votes cast in the State Supreme Court race between Justice David Prosser and Joanne Kloppenburg. That means 1.5 million people went to the polls and checked a box, completed an arrow or voted in some manner, indicating their support for a particular candidate. Prior to the appearance of the City of Brookfield’s votes, this election was separated by just 204 votes.
Consider if Brookfield had been included in the process at that point. Say Kloppenburg had won a ten year term on the state’s highest court by a difference of 204. Without a doubt, when that was thought to be the case, there were more than 204 people in Wisconsin who would have preferred Prosser but did not make it to the polls. If just 52 Prosser supporters had gotten four friends together and gone to the polls the result would have been different. This is why the parties put so much effort into “get out the vote” campaigns right before elections. It is entirely possible for a little effort to go a long way.
While the result may not always be one we agree with, the point of voting is to participate in American self-governance. Again, ensuring that votes from Brookfield were counted means those people are being counted. We can decry the amount of money being spent on elections, we can decry the political nature of a race for State Supreme Court, and we can decry the tactics used in campaigns. However, there is no more fundamental right in America than voting; as a result those 14,000 votes in Brookfield must be counted. Those 14,000 votes made up roughly 11 percent of all of those cast in Waukesha Co.
If we accept the idea that every vote does not count, then why does any one vote? We vote because we believe in the system. We vote because we are a democracy. In theory, that means if it comes down to a difference of one vote, we go with the majority. For a time on April 5 and 6, we were just 203 votes away from one vote making that big of a difference. Don’t tell me every vote doesn’t count.
Every Vote Forgotten
From federal government to the local arena, we are taught from little up that every vote counts. I’m not so sure anymore.
On Thursday, the close race for State Supreme Court was called to a near close as Waukesha County recovered thousands of untallied votes. Let’s rephrase that. Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus lost and then found 14,000 votes when she realized she never tallied votes from the city of Brookfield. This gives an unofficial lead to conservative leaning Justice David Prosser.
And the questions on everyone’s mind: How do you find 14,000 votes? How do you forget about an entire city?
Several conflicts of interest may have shoved Nickolaus into public scrutiny here. I only wish she had been under scrutiny when she applied for the position to begin with. Maybe someone could have pointed out that Nickolaus had worked in the Assembly Republican caucus during the time that Prosser, a former Republican lawmaker, served as the assembly speaker.
Another cause for scrutiny comes from Nickolaus’s election system, which was audited last year after complaints were cast that she was not cooperative with information technology specialists. The audit showed the system as outdated but overall okay – they urged Nicolaus to improve security and backup procedures.
Finally, Nickolaus does not post separate municipal election results online, as many clerks do. She also never showed the running totals throughout election night or what proportion of the voting units were included in the tallies. I’m certain that a public voter breakdown could have prevented such a bizarre turn of events.
As a matter of fact, I really wonder if voters are ever receiving the proper amount of information and accountability necessary to ensure fair elections. The WI State Supreme Court election shows how little voters can trust Waukesha County clerks, but what keeps me up at night is a far greater issue: Is this little mishap a blip on the radar or is every voting cycle riddled with scandals that are simply never caught red-handed? If so, does my vote really matter or could mine have been forgotten just as easily as the city of Brookfield?