April 7, 2011 — -- Wisconsin's topsy-turvy supreme court race -- widely seen as a referendum on Republican governor Scott Walker -- took another dramatic turn as incumbent justice David Prosser, a conservative, moved convincingly back into the lead.
On Wednesday, liberal challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, an assistant attorney general, had appeared to eke out an upset -- besting Prosser by 204 votes in an unofficial tally. But officials in heavily Republican Waukesha county now say they discovered a counting error that, when rectified, gives Prosser an additional 7,582 votes.
Waukesha county clerk Kathy Nickolaus blamed the error on her failure to save results from the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield on her database. She told reporters, "This is human error which I apologize for."
If the new results hold -- and a Democratic official in the county said they appear to be accurate -- Kloppenburg faces an uphill fight in a recount because the new margin is too large for the state to pick up the costs.
The race has been closely watched because Walker supporters and detractors viewed it as a proxy battle for his controversial move to strip state employees of union rights.
It produced a record turnout: nearly 1.5 million votes were cast for what is typically a low-key judicial election. The outcome is significant because Wisconsin's supreme court may soon decide the legality of the state's anti-union law.