Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's Six O'Clock, Do You Know Where Your Vote Is?

We all hope our votes are counted, but we can't be sure of that given Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus "forgot to hit save" when entering at least one city. We don't know exactly how many times Nickolaus forgot during the night she said that she "hit save many times all night long." Nickolaus didn't realize she forgot until the next day. We don't even know how many times Nickolaus hit save. So how do we know for sure that other votes haven't been lost, or that votes were never lost to begin with? We can't wait for a recount to try to figure that out. Any missing votes could be the difference between needing a recount as well as how much a recount will cost tax payers.

We, including many news organizations, have been trying to ask these questions and others since the press conference last week Thursday. However, Nickolaus's only statement since has been to say that she declines to resign. Clearly, we must begin questioning louder, because we're not getting through.

It's Nickolaus's duty to provide us with answers to our simple and relevant questions regarding the election system in Waukesha County and the vote counting process. It's also her duty to clearly explain how mistakes occur. That's why there was a press conference last Thursday. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, the simple mistake was not clearly explained, evidenced by the difficulties the news media has in explaining the mistake in detail, and we still have many relevant questions regarding the mistake and Nickolaus's election system that Nickolaus refuses to answer.

If you haven't read my questions for Kathy Nickolaus, please do. I believe their answers should matter to every voter and tax payer in Wisconsin because, as I explain, our computer election systems are the final word in our elections.

We probably won't get a true answer to our questions from an investigation or a recount. Both processes take a lot of time and money, and both processes involve other people trying to determine what Nickolaus could simply tell us. Counting votes right the first time is crucial. Why won't Nickolaus provide us with a clear explanation now, and why has she refused to do so for more than six days?

A world-renowned security expert, Bruce Schneier, described some of the very real issues with election systems after questions over election security during the 2004 elections. The only way we can avoid situations like the one in Waukesha County is to demand open election systems that give our elections real transparency. A non-profit organization that has been successful in these efforts is the Open Voting Consortium (I don't know them or have any affiliation).

If you want to have your voice heard regarding the issues with the Waukesha County election system, the delayed explanation we were given for the missing votes, and Nickolaus's refusal to answer further questions, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board has a complaint form here: http://gab.wi.gov/node/1282. The election official in this case is Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus.

Updated: (6:28pm) Correction, Nickolaus has actually refused to give us a clear explanation of what happened for more than six days, not five.

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