Challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg is deciding whether to seek a recount after Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David T. Prosser Jr. emerged with a 7,316-vote victory out of almost 1.5 million cast in a race that became a referendum on limits on public-employee unions.
The margin will allow Kloppenburg to request a free statewide recount, and the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board won’t certify the results until that tally is completed or the April 20 deadline to request one has passed, Michael Haas, a staff attorney, said in a telephone interview.
Kloppenburg’s campaign will “focus our decision-making on whether to request a recount,” Melissa Mulliken, her campaign manager, said in a statement. “We will review the information available to us and carefully weigh the options.”
Prosser is declaring victory and encouraging Kloppenburg to accept the results, Brian Nemoir, the judge’s campaign manager, said in a telephone interview.
“Today, the will of the electorate is clear,” Nemoir said in a statement. “Justice Prosser hopes that a shared respect for the judiciary allows the campaign to move to a positive conclusion.”
Elections officials will certify the results after reviewing the county-by-county canvass and awaiting the recount deadline, Kevin J. Kennedy, director and general counsel of the Accountability Board, said in a statement from Madison.
“That decision is now in the hands of the candidates,” Kennedy said.
Under Wisconsin law, candidates must pay the costs of a recount if the margin exceeds one-half of 1 percent of the vote, according to the Government Accountability Board. The final margin in the April 5 race was 0.488 percent, Haas said.
The April 5 vote had been too close to call, initially showing that Kloppenburg led by 204 before an elections official in Waukesha County discovered that votes were omitted from the reported results. Prosser got more votes based on counties’ post-election canvasses, the state board said.
Kloppenburg’s campaign has requested public records related to the count in Waukesha County after 14,000 mistallied votes upended the unofficial result of the statewide ballot. Election officials are reviewing the county clerk’s processes and verifying the results, Haas said.
Votes from the city of Brookfield weren’t initially reported by County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus because of what she called “human error.”
The state also is reviewing results from 2006 because the county reported more combined votes for the attorney general candidates that year than total ballots cast in the election there, Haas said.
Tilting the Balance
Prosser, 68, appointed to the high court in 1998 by former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson, served as a Republican for 18 years in the Legislature. He had been seeking a second full 10-year term. Kloppenburg, 57, is an assistant state attorney general who has given money to Democrats.
The Supreme Court race became a proxy fight over a law championed by Republican Governor Scott Walker that curbs government unions’ collective bargaining power and prohibits governments from withholding union dues.
The law was challenged in a court case that may wind up before the state Supreme Court. Prosser presents himself as “a judicial conservative” on his website, and often votes in a bloc with three other members to form a majority, Charles Franklin, a University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor, has said.
Political groups spent almost $3.6 million on television ads in the race, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school. The amount was a state record for television spending by noncandidate organizations, the center has said.
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