A Waukesha County judge late Monday declined to issue an injunction that would’ve sequestered military absentee ballots, saying it was a “drastic” remedy that would at least temporarily disenfranchise military voters.

GOP state Rep. Janel Brandtjen and others filed the lawsuit after a Milwaukee election official used phony names to fraudulently obtain military absentee ballots.

During the hearing, Judge Michael Maxwell asked whether a more appropriate remedy would be to require the Wisconsin Elections Commission to provide an accurate list of military voters to local clerks. They could then check military absentee ballots against the list.

But he ultimately ruled state law requires local clerks, not the commission, to maintain the list. Still, he faulted the commission for not stressing that in the guidance it provided local clerks about military absentee ballots.

Maxwell said he wished the commission did a better job of ensuring local clerks comply with the law.

“If WEC’s job on the 361 days we’re not administering an election can’t be to make sure that municipal clerks do their job, I’m not sure why we have that state agency at all,” he said.

The election official who’s actions prompted the suit, Kimberly Zapata, was fired from her role as deputy director and 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.

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 last week she had received three military absentee ballots, each with a different name.

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