On Thursday at just after 5:00pm a county clerk by the name of Kathy Nickolaus announced that she had forgotten to record 14,315 votes in the strongly Republican county of Waukesha, specifically from the city of Brookfield. These additional votes yielded an additional 7,403 votes to David Prosser's total and were easily sufficient to flip the unofficial victory from Joanne Kloppenburg who had led by 204 votes to the incumbent David Prosser [ref].
Given the astounding and troubling information that is now coming out of Waukesha county and the abhorrent lack of transparency and accountability in the data handling protocols that were in place within that election office, one might have reason to be a little uncomfortable with hearing about 14,315 missing votes 29 hours after the initial tallies were supposed to be done. One might also find that the additional votes going to David Prosser were just exactly enough to push his lead outside the 0.5% margin of victory preventing an automatic state-funded recount. And given that the election data was stored on Kathy's desktop computer of which multiple employees had password access to, one has to wonder how one would even begin to trace what might have happened and who might have tampered with the results, if it is ever determined that these new votes were more than just a result of simple human error.
The explanation that Kathy gave for this oversight in the press conference on Thursday was that she forgot to hit the save button and this was why the votes were missing in the preliminary tallies on election night. This explanation is a little suspect and doesn't make sense given that she also said she was working on an Access database. Access as with almost all database programs don't have save buttons, they continuously save all entries immediately after they have been entered into the computer. Another question that still needs to be answered is why the Brookfield clerk was asked by Kathy for two versions of her results with one being in a different format from all the other statewide standardized data. The concern over her press conference explanations doesn't even take into account why she would be using a database like Access in the first place which is not secured, can be easily manipulated and is not robust enough for the types of auditing and security procedures that one might expect in a statewide election. Couple all of this with the fact that Kathy Nickolaus had been previously granted immunity in a criminal investigation in 2002 of the GOP caucus in Wisconsin [ref]. More recently she had been warned on numerous occasions that her procedures and techniques were not appropriate for handling election data [ref].
So theoretically here is how Kathy or any other person who had access to this computer could have easily created the additional 14,315 votes ...especially considering how Waukesha in particular reports its results with very little degree of regional differentiation. The database and/or tabulating software was on her desktop computer which was not connected to the statewide election network like every other county clerk. Thus all it takes is a simple program to do it. Votes come in and are totaled and lets say you want to leave yourself the option of creating more votes later if need be. You pick one ward or precinct ... like say Brookfield that has already received a vote total differential very close to what you need. The program has all of those votes be dispersed evenly to all the other 197 precincts. Those precincts end up with an extra 73 votes or so in this case which isn't much in the overall scope and certainly would not necessarily be identified in a final certified count unless there was a hand-recount. This is true in this case since the new vote totals were announced late and the final totals for Waukesha county were announced as "certified" final totals at the same time as the revelation of the new 14315 votes.
Now you have left yourself with one precinct out of the total 198 having no votes. Presto!! You can now say, it was pure simple human error because how could there be no votes for the city of Brookfield? Everyone will focus on this error and of course the numbers from the city will match up and everyone will say simple human error, nothing to see here, move along. This is one of probably a dozen different ways to run a simple vote manipulation if you have full access to the computer and no one else has any oversight on that computer or final vote total. Not saying that this is what happened and maybe there is an additional check and balance that would make this scenario unlikely but this is not even beyond the level of sophistication for a teenager to concoct so imagine what an evil genius like Karl Rove could concoct.
UPDATE (04/11/11 8:00 AM): As expected the focus is misplaced and the vast majority of stories are talking about how the Brookfield numbers that were reported by the Brookfield Patch at around midnight match with what Kathy Nickolaus reported about 29 hrs later. Of course they match that is the whole point. The premise of my hypothetical story is that the Brookfield votes were DOUBLED and that the first set was dispersed across all the other wards / precincts in Waukesha within Kathy's tabulating software, of which on one else has oversight on.