A top elections official in Milwaukee has been fired after allegedly obtaining military absentee ballots for fake voters through a state-run website and sending them to a Republican state lawmaker, Mayor Cavalier Johnson announced Thursday.
Kimberly Zapata, deputy director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, allegedly requested the military ballots through the state’s MyVote Wisconsin website, Johnson said.
The ballots were sent to GOP State Rep. Janel Brandtjen, an outspoken critic of how votes were tallied during the 2020 election, who said in an October 31 statement that she believes “someone was trying to point out how easy it is to get military ballots in Wisconsin.”
Brandtjen’s office says the ballots were found on October 27 and then turned over to the Waukesha County sheriff’s office, who confirmed her account and said it was working with the Waukesha County district attorney’s office in this investigation.
The Milwaukee County district attorney’s office told CNN that it expects criminal charges to be filed against Zapata “in the coming days.”
Zapata’s attorney Michael Maistelman told CNN: “We will litigate this in the courtroom, not the media.”
The absentee ballots sent to Brandtjen were addressed to individuals who do not appear to exist, according to her statement, which included pictures of the envelopes she received.
“The ballots were all addressed to ‘Holly’ with three different last names. None of these individuals reside, or have resided at her address, and the Representative did not request the ballots,” her statement said.
After Brandtjen made inquiries, according to her office, she “realized these three ‘Hollys’ probably don’t exist. If they did, why would they send ballots to her house? ‘I believe someone was trying to point out how easy it is to get military ballots in Wisconsin.’”
Johnson said there should not be concerns about the election.
“Folks should have confidence in our elections in Milwaukee because we’re doing this right now,” Johnson said. “We’re being upfront, we’re being forthcoming about the challenge we face. If anybody tries to interfere with elections in Milwaukee, they will be handled appropriately. In this case, this particular person was immediately terminated.”
Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg said Zapata had been with commission for about 7 years.
“We have never had any indication of any type of violation of work policies or procedures,” Woodall-Vogg said. “We of course will be taking a look at that, but up until this point she’s been forthcoming and we don’t have any indication of any concerns at this point but that’s not to say we won’t be looking at every aspect of the elections she’s been involved in.”
The administrator for the state’s elections commission, Meagan Wolfe, said she is “stunned and deeply disappointed” by the allegations against Zapata.
“The actions of this single individual were swiftly detected and will have no impact [on] the November 8 election. We however recognize that the damage caused by this action is damage to public confidence,” Wolfe said in a Wisconsin Elections Commission statement.
“Our understanding is that no other ballots, beyond those previously reported, have been affected by this individual’s actions,” she added. “While the actions of this individual set us all back in our efforts to show Wisconsinites that our elections are run with integrity, I have every confidence the upcoming election will be fair and accurate.”
In a statement to CNN, the Republican Party of Wisconsin reiterated that “election officials need to follow the law” but also raised concerns about “the vulnerabilities that continue to be exposed in the MyVote system.”
“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,” said Chad Doran, communications director for the Wisconsin GOP.
CNN’s Sonnet Swire contributed to this report.