An election official in Wisconsin’s most populous city has been fired after sending fake military ballots to a state lawmaker, the city’s mayor announced on Nov. 3.
Kimberly Zapata, deputy director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, was removed, according to Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson.
Zapata “apparently sought fictitious military ballots from a state elections website” and directed the ballots to a state lawmaker, Johnson, a Democrat, told reporters during a press conference.
“I will not accept, I will not tolerate, and I certainly will not defend any misrepresentation by a city official involved in elections. It does not matter that this might have been an effort to expose a vulnerability that state law created. It does not matter to me that the alleged crime did not take place at work. It does not matter to me 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 any election results,” Johnson said.
“This has every appearance of being an egregious, blatant violation of trust, and this matter is now in the hands of law enforcement.”
State Rep. Janel Brandtjen announced in October that she received three military ballots at her home.
They were delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
Brandtjen said she did not request the ballots.
“I believe someone was trying to point out how easy it is to get military ballots in Wisconsin,” the lawmaker said.
She sent the unopened ballots to the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office.
The office said that none of the individuals whose names were on the ballots reside or have resided at Brandtjen’s home and that an investigation had started.
Under state law, military personnel do not have to prove their identity to vote.
Zapata told superiors what she had done, according to Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg.
“It’s my belief that she was pointing out that you can go on to the public system, make up a person, and request a ballot,” Woodall-Vogg said.
Brandtjen, the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office, and the Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment on Zapata’s termination.
Zapata could not be reached.
Johnson, the mayor, said that Zapata’s access to computer systems was deactivated, and she was fired immediately after officials learned she was responsible for the ballots.
“She has been forthcoming about her actions, and we’ve got no indication of any other violations of trust. Even so, we are looking into the possibility of other misdeeds. Let there be no doubt about this, that election integrity is absolutely essential,” he said. “Both our Election Commission executive director and I will make certain Milwaukee’s election administration is conducted with the very highest level of accuracy as well as trust and honesty—without any hints of impropriety.”