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Friday, April 08, 2011

Well, who ELSE would I go to for more on this?
Posted by Jill | 5:43 AM
...other than Brad Friedman?

The lameass explanation:

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.”

There's just one problem: When you are entering data into an Access database, it is saved when you move to the next row. You don't have to "press 'save'" Now, when you write nn application in Access (which consists of a user interface in front of an auto-saving Access database with some Visual Basic code behind it to handle navigation, saving, and calculations, you can turn autosave off and put a save button on the screen. But it's hard to imagine an actual Access application where each record is a single screen AND has autosave overridden AND allows you to just navigate to the next record without doing something, such as pressing another button called something like "Next Screen". Of course if you wrote an app like that, and there was unsaved data, you would probably display a pop-up window alerting the user that there is unsaved data. And even if it was an application that was sloppily written (which is quite possible, after all, Access is part of Microsoft Office and any monkey with rudimentary programming knowledge can write an application with it. And even if this application DID display one precinct at a time, and even if it did have a save button, it's hard to imagine that she would "forget to press the save button" for EVERY SINGLE RECORD.

How stupid does she think we are? Pretty damn stupid, it seems. And the Democrat who got up with her to vouch for her is also pretty damn stupid. After a decade of screwy vote totals and demonstrations of how easy it is to change vote tallies on electronic voting machines, you'd think that the Democrats would wake the hell up. Of course you'd be assuming a party that isn't completely inept, but that's another story.

Cieran over at GOS notes why the 7500 number additional votes for David Prosser is significant. So does John Washburn, who was on the Mike Malloy show with Brad last night, and who gave more details on how Nickolaus was tallying the votes in a Microsoft Access database on a circa 1995 PC in her office.

Kathy Nickolaus has some history in this area that should also raise eyebrows:
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.

I realize that I've been to some degree in IT for twenty-three years, and I know there are people who still think that computers are some kind of magic, and who have absolute trust in electronic voting machines. I know because when I ran for county committee a few years ago, and spent a few hours at the polling place as a poll-watcher, I was chatting with some of the over-age-75 election workers and explained to them exactly why you cannot trust the Sequoia Accu-Vote machines that are used in my district. I explained it in language even a monkey could understand, and I think that when I was done, a few of them were at least wondering about it.

But this degree of (at the very least) ineptitude, and at worst outright partisan corruption of the voting process, should not be excused or defended by anyone. And while Republicans and James O'Keefe are frothing at the mouth at the possibility that somewhere in Arizona a guy with a name like Ignacio Lopez might show up at the wrong precinct to vote, there is still, even after Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 and thousands of questionable election results since then, absolutely no integrity in the voting systems in many areas nationwide.

I'm not making any accusations here. But there is enough here that's fishy that if the shoe were on the other foot, and this were a Democratic county clerk, Republicans would be screaming for a federal investigation. Unless votes are counted, and counted with some degree of integrity, we have no democracy.

Just sayin', is all.

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Anonymous Richard Blair said...
Great analysis, Jill. Can't add anything to it, other than what did anyone expect? Of course the GOP is going to "game" the system if they have the opportunity. It's an integral part of their election strategery, as we've seen for many years. I knew when Kloppenberg was only in front by a handful of votes that some missing Prosser votes would emerge - and probably enough not to trigger an automatic recount. That's why Brad (and every one else following voting integrity issues) has been saying for years that to elect a Dem, the results have to be "diebold proof" - the margin of the win has to be significant enough that there are no questions. That being said, there should be investigations out the wazoo on this election, at a federal level, and the results should not be certified until investigations are complete.

Anonymous eileen said...
Hold a new election. And fire "Kathy." She sounds like a Kristen Wiig character from Sat. Nite Live. This is unacceptable.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Like the lefties are above this.
Can you say ACORN?

Blogger Batocchio said...
Great write-up, Jill. I wonder how much of this is a case of petty bureaucrats and their fiefdoms, and how much is the monarchial privilege seized by movement conservatives across the country. Her story stinks.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Hey, it worked in Florida in 2000. As John Candy said in "Splash": "When you find a good thing, you stick with it."

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Late to the discussion, but I hope you did see the letter the Democratic judge published after the press conference. She stated: she is 80 years old, knows nothing of computers, was instructed to say nothing at the press conference, and had not been informed of the whole history of this debacle. I don't have a link, but she seems an honorable but overwhelmed woman, unlike of new Kathryn Harris.