Milwaukee Election Commission official Kimberly Zapata could face charges accusing her of fraudulently requesting military ballots

Johnson said that there may have been possible fraudulent voter actions shown by Zapata. Zapata, the Deputy Director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, was fired by Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson after she discovered that she had requested ballots from 45 Milwaukee addresses.

Johnson stated, “This has the appearance of being a blatant and egregious violation of trust in every way.” It is absolutely essential. The integrity of the election is absolutely integral,” said Johnson.

Milwaukee’s Sentinel Journal reported that prosecutors in Milwaukee County are considering charging Zapata with a misdemeanor for illegally requesting a ballot and a felony for malfeasance in office.

Prosecutors are anticipated to file charges in the upcoming days, while District Attorney John Chisholm is currently examining the allegations of election fraud, as stated by his office.

Johnson conducted a press conference on Thursday but departed prior to journalists concluding their inquiries regarding the issue.

The revelation comes five days before the explosive development, when Republicans have cast doubt on the security of absentee voting in Milwaukee, particularly since former President Donald Trump falsely accused officials in Milwaukee of rigging the 2020 election.

During Thursday’s press conference, Johnson disclosed that he discovered Brandtjen had been instructed by Zapata to purportedly search for nonexistent military ballots on a state elections website, a fact that he became aware of on Wednesday.

Kimberly Zapata, former deputy director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, is shown here instructing workers processing ballots on April 5 at the city

According to him, Zapata’s actions might have been an attempt to reveal weaknesses in the state election system.

He expressed, “I am unconcerned that there was no endeavor to vote unlawfully or manipulate any election outcomes.” Similarly, the fact that the Milwaukee ballots were excluded does not concern me. “I am indifferent to the fact that the purported offense did not occur in the workplace.”

Michael Maistelman, who is acting on behalf of Zapata, refused to respond to inquiries.

Maistelman, who often advocates for Democrats like Governor Tony Evers, declared that we will seek legal recourse in the judicial system rather than utilizing the media.

Johnson said Zapata was fired and officials revoked her access to city offices and computer systems when they learned of her actions.

He said while there is no other indication of violations by Zapata, city officials are “looking into the possibility of other misdeeds.”.

Who is Kimberly Zapata?

Claire Woodall-Vogg, the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, had been with the Election Commission for about seven years, said Zapata.

She was assigned as the deputy head of the Election Commission this summer.

Woodall-Vogg stated, “Regarding this matter, there has never been any sign of any kind of breach of work policies or procedures. Naturally, we will closely examine this, but currently, she has been open and we have no signs of any worries. This doesn’t mean that we won’t thoroughly scrutinize every aspect of the elections she has been a part of.”

Zapata, who is involved, is also expected to look into previous elections, both inside and outside the city government. Jeff Fleming, spokesperson for Johnson, stated that the Election Commission is leading the review at this juncture.

Instead of answering questions about why she approached city officials, Zapata apparently declined to answer when she spoke with Fleming, the district attorney’s office attorney. The ballots were sent to Maistelman or declined to provide additional details about the case.

When asked about how they found out about Zapata’s actions, Woodall-Vogg stated that “the staff member was open and honest.”

ID or any other form of identification is not required to register and vote. Military voters are not required by state law to provide identification.

Woodall-Vogg stated, “the city officials’ understanding is that the system alerted her to Brandtjen’s request to make a ballot and add a person to the public system, I believe she was pointing out that you can go ahead with it.”

Johnson stated that Zapata was promptly terminated and city authorities were transparent about the incident, therefore trust in Milwaukee’s elections should not be undermined.

At that moment, he and Woodall-Vogg departed while reporters yelled inquiries.

Zapata’s termination means Woodall-Vogg will instead oversee the city’s central count operation, where all the absentee ballots are tallied on Nov. 8.

Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe said late Thursday no other ballots, beyond those in question, have been affected by Zapata’s actions.

“I have complete confidence in the upcoming election, knowing that our elections in Wisconsin are conducted with fairness and accuracy. As we work tirelessly to support the efforts of every individual involved, it is crucial that we hold our local election officials and the Wisconsin Elections Commission in the highest regard. This violation of trust is a serious matter that undermines the very core of election integrity,” stated Wolfe.

The fact remains that election fraud is an extremely rare occurrence, and when it does occur, it is quickly discovered. It is understandable that this case will receive a lot of attention due to the consequences involved.

Her actions were labeled as astonishing, sorrowful, and exceedingly disheartening by eight out of the 11 council members in Milwaukee, as they commended Johnson’s choice to terminate Zapata.

In addition to council President José G. Pérez, Alds. Michael Murphy, Robert Bauman, Milele Coggs, JoCasta Zamarripa, Mark Borkowski, Scott Spiker, and Marina Dimitrijevic expressed, “Nevertheless, the stain on the Election Commission and city government caused by her actions is detrimental, even though it is undeserved and harmful. Regardless of that, she seemingly engaged in this behavior outside of her professional duties and during her personal time.”

However, they expressed their continued trust in the election workers, system, and overall functioning of the city.

A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Republican Party stated that election officials need to adhere to the law, despite concerns raised about the state’s online system where voters can request more absentee ballots.

The spokesperson for the party, Chad Doran, mentioned, “It should come as a surprise to all that the weaknesses in the MyVote system for requesting absentee ballots are still being revealed.”

State Representative Janel Brandtjen alerted the authorities after receiving three mail-in ballots that she did not solicit.

On Monday, the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department announced that they were investigating the case of Janel Brandtjen, a representative from Menomonee Falls, who had sent absentee ballots to the members of the military on their behalf.

“Donald Trump believes that the 2020 election was a fraud and wants to prove that it was possible for him to be robbed of victory. A man from Racine County, named Brandtjen, who leads the Assembly’s elections committee, said on Monday that she believes someone involved in the episode copied the actions of a voter fraud committee.”

On Thursday, Brandtjen proposed that Zapata’s actions illuminate issues that legislators must tackle.

Brandtjen stated, in reference to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, ‘I have been targeted by the progressive media, Democrats who profit from the system, and Republicans who lack the courage to confront the problems, including Speaker Vos, who has labeled me as a purveyor of conspiracy theories.’ We have discovered numerous matters that require consideration.

Rep. Janel Brandtjen speaks as former President Donald Trump held a campaign rally for Republican candidate for governor Tim Michels at the Waukesha County Fairgrounds in Waukesha on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022.

Three separate females residing in South Milwaukee, Shorewood, and Menomonee Falls, where Brandtjen resides, were provided with three ballots by clerks, each bearing the first name Holly. Following the receipt of said ballots, Brandtjen promptly reached out to former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who supervised a biased examination of the 2020 election, as well as law enforcement, on Monday.

The Sheriff’s Office is collaborating with the Waukesha County prosecutor’s office to conduct an investigation, as stated on Monday by the department.

In a statement on Monday, Riley Vetterkind, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, stated that they intend to collaborate with relevant law enforcement agencies to address the accusations. He further mentioned that they are currently in the process of collecting the WEC information pertaining to Rep. Brandtjen’s concerns, as outlined in her recent press release.

Five out of the state’s eight congressional districts are occupied by Republicans. On Thursday, Tim Michels, the Republican nominee for governor who has received endorsement from Trump and has supported his baseless assertions regarding the 2020 election, announced his plans to establish a “Wisconsin Election Integrity Group” in place of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. This group would consist of representatives from all eight congressional districts in the state.

Michels suggested that he would not seek to eliminate election fraud committed by Wait and Zapata, who used the MyVote state’s website to request absentee ballots.

More: In the 2018 race for governor, Milwaukee absentee ballots played a prominent role. That scenario could repeat itself in November.

More: How to enroll to vote, ask for an absentee ballot and find solutions to other inquiries about voting in Wisconsin.

Prior to knowing that Harry Wait, the leader of the County-based Racine group known as Government H.O.T, was alleged to have committed crimes against the election law, the episode was characterized as an effort to expose loopholes in election fraud claims promoted by the group during the 2020 Election.

Wait, Mason Cory and Vos were charged earlier this year with two counts of election fraud and two counts of unauthorized use of an individual’s personal identifying information for requesting ballots in violation of the law.

In his inaugural appearance before the court in September, Wait compared himself to founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington in terms of their appearance.

He informed journalists during a press briefing, “The actions I have taken align with the fundamental laws of this country, which were established to support engaging in civil disobedience.” “Both legal and in accordance with the fundamental laws of the nation, my actions are undoubtedly definite. That is why I have behaved in a comparable way to the initiator of this nation.”

Military members are not required to register for voting or present photo identification under state law. Lawmakers would need to take steps to modify the procedure for military members. The issues with the state’s system to request absentee ballots are what the group refers to as Brandtjen, a “patriot,” for emphasizing in Wait’s group’s social media channel post on Monday.

Wait praised Zapata after news broke on Thursday for her efforts to uncover additional weaknesses in MyVote. He expressed his admiration for her online, stating that he saluted her.

As chairwoman of the elections committee, Brandtjen has repeatedly held hearings promoting false claims of voter fraud and 2020 election conspiracy theories.

Democratic state Representative Mark Spreitzer from Beloit, a member of the Assembly elections committee, expressed in a statement that it is crucial for military voters to have the ability to vote via absentee ballots. He emphasized that individuals who aim to exploit our service members for their own political motives should not be accepted. Rep. Spreitzer further asserted that if another Republican has engaged in election fraud, they should face legal consequences to the maximum extent. He expressed his hope that the responsible party is apprehended promptly, sending a strong message that such actions will not be accepted.