|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
At a press conference this evening, a tearful Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus accepted blame for the error.
Nickolaus said she forgot to press "save" while entering the numbers into a database and because the turnout was so large, the missing votes didn't get noticed.
Nickolaus said on election night she enters the numbers into a Microsoft Access program and then presents them to the media. Because she didn’t save the numbers, they didn’t get transferred to the unofficial results and not discovered until the canvass took place.
“It’s important to stress this isn’t a case of extra votes or extra ballots being found,” she said. “This is error, which I apologize for, which is common in this process.”
Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus' response to audit recommendations aimed at improving election security in her office was not a hit with the County Board leaders Monday.
Nickolaus had said she would take the recommendations "into consideration" - sparking concern from members of the Executive Committee and, at one point, a scolding from County Board Chairman Jim Dwyer over what he later categorized as "smirks" during the discussion.
"This is the only audit in my 17 years where there's no compliance before (the audit reaches) the Executive Committee," he said at the start of Monday's audit review.
An audit of last fall's elections prompted Internal Audit Manager Lori Schubert to conclude that while the clerk's system generally complies with state and federal guidelines and accuracy of election totals was not at issue, Nickolaus should improve security and backup procedures.
For example, Schubert recommended that Nickolaus stop using the same ID and password for three employees, assigning individual ones instead, as required by county policy, so that an audit trail of each employee's work exists.
A "worst case scenario" of a disgruntled employee changing the password and locking others out of the system was possible and has occurred elsewhere in the country, Schubert said.
Nickolaus explained her rationale, saying it would take too much time for one employee to sign off so another employee could sign on to the same programming computer when one is interrupted to wait on a customer at the office counter.
Several committee members said they were uncomfortable with Nickolaus' refusal to adopt the recommendations.
During one part of the discussion, Dwyer erupted in exasperation at Nickolaus' facial expressions.
"There really is nothing funny about this, Kathy," he said, raising his voice. "Don't sit there and grin when I'm explaining what this is about.
"Don't sit there and say I will take it into consideration," he said, asking her pointedly whether she would change the passwords.
"I have not made my decision," she answered. After supervisors continued to press the issue, Nickolaus indicated she would create three different passwords.
"This isn't that big of a deal. It isn't worth an argument," she said. "This is ridiculous."
Nickolaus also said she would make her own assessment of when to back up computer programming for election ballots - and store the more frequent backup in another building, as the auditor recommended.
The audit was requested by the Executive Committee after the county's director of administration, Norm Cummings, said Nickolaus had been uncooperative with attempts to have the county's experts review her systems and confirm that backups were in place.
Because some of her equipment is so dated - such as an 11-year-old modem for transmitting data over the telephone and 1995 software no longer supported - and is not routinely getting security updates, her election systems are not connected to the county's system but are on stand-alone equipment.