11/5 update: The Milwaukee Election Commission’s former deputy director, Kimberly Zapata, has been charged with one felony count for misconduct in public office and three misdemeanor counts for illegally requesting military absentee ballots that were sent to GOP Rep. Janel Brandtjen. See the criminal complaint: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/221104Complaint.pdf


Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson announced the city’s deputy director at its Election Commission was fired after she illegally requested military absentee ballots that were sent to GOP state Rep. Janel Brandtjen.

Johnson sought to assure the public during a news conference Thursday that Kimberly Zapata’s actions shouldn’t shake confidence in the city’s election procedures.

“Election integrity is absolutely — absolutely — integral,” Johnson said. “It’s absolutely essential.”

Johnson said Zapata wasn’t on city time when she requested the military ballots through the state website, MyVote.wi.gov. Immediately after learning of the situation, Zapata’s access to the Election Commission office and computer system was deactivated. He called her actions an “egregious” violation of the public trust.

Zapata notified city officials of her actions.

Milwaukee Election Commission Claire Woodall-Vogg said Zapata requested the military ballots to point out what she believes to be a vulnerability in the state’s absentee ballot system.

Military voters aren’t required to register to vote or provide a copy of a photo ID in requesting an absentee ballot. Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, announced earlier this week she had received three military absentee ballots, each with a different name.

Brandtjen in response to Zapata’s firing criticized Johnson, saying she — unlike him — has worked to protect the elections process.

“I have been attacked by the liberal media, democrats who benefit from the system, and republicans who don’t have the backbone to take on the issues, including Speaker Vos, who has referred to me as a conspiracy theorist,” Brandtjen said in a statement.

“It’s time we do the people’s business, and that includes the media and both parties taking part,” she added.

Woodall-Vogg said Zapata had been with the commission for about seven years and employed by the city for 10. She became deputy director in August, a position that includes overseeing voter registration, absentee voting data management and in-person absentee voting.

Woodall-Vogg had no concerns that Zapata had taken other actions that compromised the integrity of Milwaukee’s elections, but vowed there would be a review.

“Up to this point, we’ve never had any indication of any type of violation of work policies or procedures. We, of course, will be taking an extra look at that,” Woodall-Vogg said.

The requests come a couple of months after activist Harry Wait requested absentee ballots through the state website for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Racine Mayor Cory Mason and had them sent to an address other than the one the two have on file with their voter registrations. He said it was done to show what he believes is a vulnerability in the system. He’s been charged with felonies for his actions.

State GOP spokesman Chad Doran said the vulnerabilities that continue to be exposed in the MyVote system should be “shocking.”

“We remain very concerned that these vulnerabilities exist and that the Elections Commission is not taking the proper steps to mitigate the risks of potential fraud those vulnerabilities in the system create,” Doran said.

The office of Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm said in a statement charges are expected to be filed in the coming days.

Zapata attorney Mike Maistelman issued a short statement to WisPoltiics.com saying, “We will litigate this in the courtroom, not the media.”

Woodall-Vogg told WisPolitics.com there are no safeguards under state law to prevent a fraudulently requested military ballot from being counted.

Military voters are exempt from photo ID and voter registration under state law. They only have to provide a date of birth and address, with no additional requirements to prove their identity when they return an absentee ballot.

She wrote in an email that her office looks into anyone who requests a military ballot to be sent locally.

“It raises red flags that maybe they stumbled into that part of the website erroneously so we make every effort to contact them — even more so if they are requesting the ballot be mailed to a different address,” Woodall-Vogg wrote.

Most of the time, it turns out the person isn’t active military, and the city requires them to re-register properly, she added.

Woodall-Vogg also noted the felony penalty for making up an identity to request an absentee ballot is meant to dissuade such behavior.

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