Election official fired for fraudulently requesting military absentee ballots to allegedly expose system vulnerabilities

On Thursday, Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson announced that an election official was fired for fraudulently requesting military absentee ballots despite an alleged intent to expose election system vulnerabilities, reported WITI.

What’s the background?

Republican state Representative Janel Brandtjen issued a press release on October 31 explaining that she had received three military absentee ballots sent to her home address. Brandtjen noted that she did not request the ballots and that all three were addressed to someone named “Holly” with three different last names.

“I believe someone was trying to point out how easy it is to get military ballots in Wisconsin. Registration for military ballots is not required, so a fictitious name and birthdate is all that is required to obtain a military ballot online,” said Brandtjen.

“I think it’s sad that people feel they have to break the law to get the attention of the legislature. This is now the second time citizens have tried to point out loopholes in our elections,” she added.

Brandtjen said she brought the unopened ballots to the Waukesha County sheriff the next day.

Election official fired

During a news conference on Thursday, Mayor Johnson announced that City of Milwaukee Election Commission Deputy Director Kimberly Zapata was removed from her position for fraudulently requesting the three ballots sent to Brandtjen.

“It does not matter that this might have been an effort to expose a vulnerability that state law created,” Johnson said. “It does not matter that this alleged crime did not take place at work. It does not matter that City of Milwaukee ballots were not part of this. Nor does it matter that there was no attempt to vote illegally or tamper with election results.”

“This has every appearance of being an egregious, blatant violation of trust, and this matter is now in the hands of law enforcement,” Johnson continued.

Johnson noted that the city believes Zapata requested the ballot to prove that there is a loophole in the current election process. Zapata requested the ballots from a public-facing website not an internal employee database.

Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission, stated that Zapata was forthcoming about her actions and that there was no indication that other violations were committed.

“Military voters are not required to register to vote,” said Woodall-Vogg. “They are exempt from providing photo ID and any other type of ID information. And so, it is my belief that she was pointing out that you can go onto the public system, make up a person, and request a ballot. She sent it to a state legislature member in order to alert them to this vulnerability, is our understanding at this point.”

Brandtjen released a statement following the news that Zapata was terminated.

“Unlike Mayor Johnson, I have actually been working on providing Wisconsinites a safe and secure election process,” Brandtjen said. “We have uncovered so many issues that demand attention. 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.”

The executive board of the Democratic Party of Milwaukee County condemned Zapata’s actions and said, “We are worse off when extremists promote conspiracy theories and damage our electoral process. We call on members of the Legislature, the Republican Party, and folks across Wisconsin to counter the false narratives around election fraud pushed by far-right extremists like Rep. Brandtjen.”

“Election officials need to follow the law,” stated Republican Party of Wisconsin communications Director Chad Doran. “However, the vulnerabilities that continue to be exposed in the MyVote system for requesting absentee ballots should be shocking to everyone. 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.”

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office plans to file charges against Zapata in the coming days.

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