Those findings quickly went viral and made it into mainstream media outlets. Not long after Kathy Nickolaus issued a statement about the discrepancy and in fact she attempted explanations on two separate occasions. She has now added asterisks to the 2006 election and 8 other elections that she oversaw in Waukesha [ref].
These apparent discrepancies prompted Mike Tate, Chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, to ask the state Government Accountability Board (GAB) to expand its investigation of Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus' election procedures to include a review of the county's vote totals from the Nov. 7, 2006, general election.
Mike Tate issued a letter to Kevin Kennedy, the executive director of the Government Accountability Board, calling for an expanded inquiry. The Government Accountability Board (GAB) in Wisconsin currently had an ongoing investigation into Waukesha county. Late Thursday of last week the GAB officially announced they were expanding their investigation to stretch back at least five years and look at previous election results from Waukesha county. They plan to finish the current investigation into the vote tallies and vote handling procedures implemented in Waukesha county prior to April 20th, the last day that the Kloppenburg campaign can request a statewide recount.
Previous calls for a federal investigation into Waukesha election procedures had already been made by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said in an email that the department would review the request.
With all of these anomalies and calls for investigations and considering the initial closeness of the race between Prosser and Kloppenburg we decided to look at some of the county by county election totals. We went under the hypothesis that any major attempt at election fraud by either party might shift variables that presumably would be mostly random into something that might be less random.
We compared the vote totals per ward to the vote spread between the two candidates in counties that were strongly partisan. Because some of these counties had significant differences in vote totals we combined multiple counties in some cases and normalized the data so that the standard deviation was between 60-75% of the median vote for each county.
We noticed a very interesting difference, of about 15 different counties that we looked at that were either strongly Democratic or strongly Republican, only Waukesha county and to a lesser extent Washington and Ozaukee showed positive correlations between vote totals and vote spread (see figure 1 below). What this means is that in Waukesha as the number of votes that were tabulated in a particular ward became larger the magnitude of Prosser's victory tended to become larger.
Waukesha County Anomaly by Eric Nelson
When we looked at counties where Kloppenburg won by a large margin such as Dane, Ashland and Bayfield counties there was no correlation between the vote total in a particular ward and the vote spread between Kloppenburg and Prosser. This was also true for Douglas and Eau Claire counties.
One explanation would be that higher voting wards and more populous wards tend to vote more Republican. But that goes against the conventional wisdom and well established national trends that urban areas in the Midwest and Northeast vote more Democratic and rural areas vote more Republican.
Another possible and more nefarious explanation would be that in these higher voting wards election voting machines and optical scanners are more likely to be in use. This raises the possibility that some of these electronic voting machines have been reprogrammed to flip votes to a particular party or candidate in areas with high vote totals. The rationale for this would be that it would be much easier and more efficient to flip votes in heavy turnout and heavily partisan voting wards and the likelihood of being discovered would be far less.
This type of data would certainly warrant hand recounts in wards that had high vote totals, used some type of electronic device in the vote tabulation and showed a very large spread between candidates. Hopefully both candidates care enough about our democracy to want to restore public confidence in the process. Given all the problems that have already occurred in Wausehaka county only a hand recount will accomplish this.
There may also be other more obvious explanations for these differences that we found but it is interesting nonetheless that once again Waukesha county stands alone in Wisconsin.