Nickolaus hands off election duties in Waukesha County

WAUKESHA -- Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus handed off her election duties to the Deputy County Clerk Thursday, April 5th, two days after Wisconsin's presidential primary election. This, after County Executive Dan Vrakas also gave Nickolaus the option of resigning altogether.

Vrakas said he sat down with Nickolaus Thursday afternoon and told her the problem was bigger than her, and bigger than him. He said people have lost faith in the election process in Waukesha County and something needed to be done.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, County Executive Vrakas said, "I presented two options to Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, resignation, or designating the Deputy Clerk to run the upcoming recall election. Kathy agreed to hand off her election duties to the Deputy County Clerk in order to avoid my public call for her resignation.  In stepping aside, Kathy also agreed to allow outside consultants and county staff to work side-by-side with the Deputy Clerk to help restore confidence in our election process."

The Vrakas options given to Nickolaus came after there were new questions raised about the way election results were counted in Waukesha County during Tuesday's presidential primary election.

Complaints included slow results and hours of lag time before numbers were put online. Raw voting machine numbers were taped to the wall outside Nickolaus’ office Tuesday night, and reporters and candidates were told to add the numbers themselves.

In April of 2011, more than 14,000 votes in the City of Brookfield were not initially counted, after Nickolaus didn’t press “save” on the computer. When the mistake was discovered, it flip-flopped the winner in a close Wisconsin Supreme Court race. Joanne Kloppenburg was no longer the victor – David Prosser was. After that, Nickolaus worked with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board on a process to check the numbers. Nickolaus says that is what slowed down vote counting during Tuesday’s election.

Vrakas told FOX6 News Thursday night because Nickolaus' position is an elected one, he couldn't force her to step aside or resign. He could only ask. Nickolaus keeps her title as clerk, and full pay. Had Nickolaus refused to step aside, a two-thirds County Board vote would've been required, and they would have to prove just cause and allow time for due process. "I'm very appreciative of the fact that the clerk agreed to step aside immediately, because the election is five weeks away. Under statutes, the County Board has a procedure that they can remove people from office, but it's very drastic and can be very time consuming. There's due process involved," Vrakas said.

Vrakas said it is critical now that focus is placed on Nickolaus' deputy clerk. "Put the full force and resources of county government in that office, and find out exactly what we need to do, and what the issues are," Vrakas said.

Nickolaus' term as clerk is up in the fall.