Friday, April 8, 2011

Wisconsin Voting War - Prosser Vs. Kloppenburg

It was supposed to be a simple non-partisan election for a ten year term for a Supreme Court Judge in Wisconsin. Ten years ago David Prosser ran unopposed. Life was simple. Then changes were made and the office was being looked at more crucially as a potential area for lawmakers to have an influence. Then steps in Joanne Kloppenburg who on one hand says she won't put her personal opinions in her work, and yet on her facebook page already promotes her agenda of change.  But aren't judges supposed to be impartial? And is it really non-partisan if they hit each other via ad campaigns for their political preferences?

A judge is supposed to look at the facts and figures, determine the legality of the issues, and follow the spirit of the constitution for which the body represents. We shouldn't have to worry if a judge is swayed by his/her own personal opinions or beliefs, although it does seem to lean in that direction at times. It doesn't make for a very secure and untainted judicial system when it does.

As most people know incumbents normally have an edge over newcomers in a race. We can see in this particular heated race that David Prosser has the judicial experience necessary to do the job, after all he's been doing the job since 1988. In 1988 Joanne Kloppenburg was just graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School. She now works as an Assistant Attorney General and has argued in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

However, it is not the job experience, education, or judicial record that people seemed to be voting on in this particular election. Record turnouts showed that Wisconsin voters felt that much more was at stake - namely the Wisconsin budget reform bill waiting in Democratic limbo to be judged by the courts.

Kloppenburg and her supporters toted Prosser as a Scott Walker stamp in their ad campaigns to incite their voters to dethrone his position. Prosser's campaign indicated that Kloppenburg was a corporate supporter and her courtroom experience was geared against the average Joe and in favor of big money. So far this doesn't sound very unbiased. It very much has the taste of two very distinct political parties - Republicans and Democrats.

So, with the illusion of a non-partisan race out of the way we come to the tallying of the votes. It was an exciting race with both teams coming out of the gates strong. One would nose ahead and then lose a bit of steam as the other loped slightly ahead toward the finish line. As they neared the gates and passed the end of the line it was declared a photo finish. Thursday morning results showed Prosser ahead by almost 800 votes. Thursday evening Kloppenburg was ahead by 200 votes. She then proclaimed victory, while Prosser declined to concede.

Just when you think that things can't be any more exciting in jumps a little ole county clerk from Waukesha County with an "oopsie." Seems that working late nights counting and tallying votes had taken a toll on the workers there. A little oversight of not including the city of Brookfield's votes made another huge difference in the election. Over 14,000 votes were not given to the AP for their election results. Here we find over 10,000 votes for Prosser and over 3,000 votes for Kloppenburg.  And the crowds begin to roar - and not with cheers of victory, but with groans of contention.

Now we have accusations of conspiracy. The clerk's background becomes a bone of contention. She is a Republican after all, doesn't her viewpoint have to be tainted?

Now, take into consideration that the numbers were found during the mandated canvass of the votes. Also that the Vice Chair of the Waukesha County Democratic Party, Ramona Kitzinger, was there during the entire canvass process and assured everyone that she assures the numbers are now correct in that county. The city of Brookfield had indeed been omitted from the original tally.

Even with the Democratic Party assurance it seems that some voters are still yelling foul. They don't understand that an error like this is not uncommon and is the reason that a canvass is required after elections. If this had been the same non-partisan elections of the past no one would have even known. However this is not the case.

So let's take a small look at Brookfield and deem if it is possible for Prosser to have overtaken Kloppenburg in the election.

1.  The population of Brookfield is almost 40,000 - more than enough to account for the number of votes
2. The median age of the residents is 42.5 years of age - definitely most residents seem to be of voting age.
3. The average income for residents in this city is over $80,000 per year - and it is noted that this city is predominantly Republican and conservative.

So, looking at the facts it is not surprising that the city of Brookfield would hold positive results for Prosser in this election. It would seem that Kloppenburg's declaration of victory was a bit premature, especially with the fact that with only a mere 200 vote lead the results were going to be headed toward a recount.

When you look at the facts of the election in the entirety it's very difficult to see where a conspiracy would come into play. It would be almost impossible to envision a county clerk donning all black clothing to sneak into her own office with a flashlight giggling in front of the low light of a computer to have her way with the votes. Tantalizing as that erroneous vision may be, there are records and trails that can be followed to see that nothing nefarious was done. People make mistakes. It happens.

The truly unfortunate part of this entire process was that we turned what should have been an unbiased race for a Supreme Court Judge into a partisan political fiasco. (Say that five times fast.)

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