Complaint charges Milwaukee election official with fraud

Nov 3, 2022, 8:17 PM | Updated: Nov 4, 2022, 10:38 am
Kimberly Zapata, deputy director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, instructs workers processing...

Kimberly Zapata, deputy director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, instructs workers processing ballots, Tuesday, April 5, 2022 at the central counting facility in Milwaukee, Wis. Zapata has been fired after sending falsely obtained military absentee ballots to the home of a Republican state lawmaker who has been an outspoken critic of how the 2020 election was administered, the city's mayor said Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

(Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A former Milwaukee elections official charged Friday with sending fake military ballots to a Republican legislator who has advanced election fraud conspiracy theories told investigators she did it because she wanted to expose real vulnerabilities in Wisconsin elections, according to a criminal complaint.

Prosecutors charged Kimberly Zapata, who was fired earlier this week, with felony misconduct in office and three misdemeanor counts of election fraud. She could face up to five years behind bars if convicted of all four counts. Her attorney, Michael Maistelman, declined comment.

The charges come just four days ahead of Election Day and as election officials are increasingly concerned about threats from within their own agencies. Officials in battleground states like Wisconsin are seeing record numbers of partisan poll worker nominations that could land skeptics on the front lines of polling places.

Zapata took over as the Milwaukee Elections Commission’s deputy director this past summer. She told investigators that commission workers have been dealing with threats, harassment and accusations that they’re lying and hiding things and she was feeling overwhelmed, the complaint said.

On the morning of Oct. 25, she made up three names with fake Social Security numbers and requested military absentee ballots in those names through MyVote Wisconsin, the state’s voter database, the complaint said.

Under Wisconsin law, someone requesting a military absentee ballot does not need to register to vote or provide any photo ID to obtain an absentee ballot. Any request automatically results in a ballot being issued, according to the complaint.

Zapata told investigators she used her government access to MyVote Wisconsin’s voter registration records to find state Rep. Janel Brandtjen’s address and had the ballots sent to her home in Menomonee Falls, the complaint said.

Brandtjen has advocated for decertifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 win in Wisconsin for the last two years and has espoused conspiracy theories supporting her position.

Multiple recounts and court rulings have confirmed that Biden legitimately defeated former President Donald Trump by almost 21,000 votes to win Wisconsin.

The complaint said Claire Woodall-Vogg, the Milwaukee Election Commission’s executive director, sent Zapata an article on Monday about someone applying for military ballots and sending them to Brandtjen. She sent Zapata a statement from Brandtjen in which Brandtjen remarked about how easy it was to receive military ballots, to which Zapata responded “She has a point,” according to the complaint.

Zapata told Woodall-Vogg on Tuesday that she created the fake voters and had the ballots sent to the lawmaker “to show how easy it is to commit fraud in this manner,” the complaint said.

“Zapata did this because she wanted to make a point that there is fraud in existence,” the complaint said. “She stated she wanted the truth to come out so that they could focus on actual problems.”

Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe on Thursday called Zapata’s alleged action “a deeply unfortunate violation of trust” but said election fraud remains extremely rare and is quickly discovered.

The commission said it has safeguards to catch fraudulent absentee ballot requests. The elections commission staff monitors the statewide voter registration system for indications of unauthorized requests. The MyVote website also requires a person requesting a ballot to verify that they are the person asking for it, along with a warning about potential penalties for committing fraud.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said Thursday that Zapata was fired immediately after city officials learned of her alleged misconduct.

The case against Zapata mirrors one against a Racine man who requested and received absentee ballots in the names of legislators and local officials in July. That man, Harry Wait, also said he wanted to expose vulnerabilities in the state’s elections system. He faces up to 13 years in prison if convicted on two misdemeanor counts of election fraud and two felony counts of identity theft.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Hideji Suzuki, former president of the Japan China youth exchange association, speaks at a news con...
Associated Press

Freed Japan-China friendship group head says charges false

TOKYO (AP) — The former head of a Japan-China friendship group who recently returned to Japan from six years in a Beijing prison for what he said were false spying charges said he still hopes to see China become a global leader but with better treatment of human rights. Hideji Suzuki, former president of the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

US revises up last quarter’s economic growth to 2.9% rate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite high interest rates and chronic inflation, the U.S. economy grew at a 2.9% annual rate from July through September, the government said Wednesday in an upgrade from its initial estimate. Last quarter’s rise in the U.S. gross domestic product — the economy’s total output of goods and services — followed two […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Venezuelan publisher receives award from US book association

NEW YORK (AP) — One of Venezuela’s few remaining independent publishers is being honored by the Association of American Publishers, the trade association announced Wednesday. Editorial Dahbar, which publishes books that include interviews with political prisoners and critiques of the country’s criminal justice system, has been given the AAP’s International Freedom to Publish/Jeri Laber Award. […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Germany quits energy treaty, says it hampers climate goals

Germany has formally decided to abandon an international energy accord that fossil fuel companies had used to oppose measures against climate change, the country’s energy minister said Wednesday. The move follows similar decisions by Italy, France, Spain and other European countries to leave the 1998 Energy Charter Treaty, which includes provisions designed to protect foreign […]
1 day ago
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition...
Associated Press

Hogan to gather with supporters amid White House speculation

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Term-limited Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was holding fundraisers for future political activity Wednesday at events where the Republican is expected to talk about his eight years as governor, as well as plans for the future. Hogan, who leaves office in January, has positioned himself to run as a legitimate alternative to […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

McConaughey, Kunis among People mag’s ‘People of the Year’

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Matthew McConaughey, Mila Kunis, Jennifer Hudson and “Abbott Elementary” creator and star Quinta Brunson have been named People magazine’s 2022 “People of the Year.” The magazine unveiled its annual list Wednesday, with Editor in Chief Wendy Naugle explaining this year’s honorees were selected because of their efforts to help others. McConaughey […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Complaint charges Milwaukee election official with fraud