Former election commission deputy director in Wisconsin found guilty of election fraud

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A former deputy director of an election commission in Wisconsin faces years behind bars after she was convicted of election fraud and misconduct earlier this week.

A jury took about five hours on Wednesday to find Kimberly Zapata, the 47-year-old former deputy director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, guilty on all four charges: one count of felony misconduct in public office and three counts of misdemeanor election fraud.

According to prosecutors, in October 2022, Zapata used phony names and Social Security numbers to create three fake members of the military and then requested absentee ballots on their behalf, taking advantage of Wisconsin law, which does not require service members to register to vote or to provide photo ID when requesting an absentee ballot.

After the absentee ballots were approved, Zapata apparently had them sent to the home of Republican state Rep. Janel Brandtjen in Menomonee Falls, a Milwaukee suburb. Upon receiving the unsolicited ballots, Brandtjen notified the authorities, and Zapata was later fired.

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The defense did not dispute those facts but claimed Zapata’s motives for requesting the ballots ought to exonerate her. Attorney Daniel Adams claimed Zapata is “a whistleblower” who attempted to expose a serious flaw in state election procedures.

“She was showing … the truth with an action — an imperfect action but a truthful action — of what was going on,” Adams argued in court.

Adams also insisted that Zapata intentionally sent the ballots to Brandtjen, a Republican who questioned Joe Biden’s electoral victory in Wisconsin in 2020, because she knew Brandtjen would never actually use them.

“[Brandtjen] is the most vocal election fraud politician that I know of,” Zapata said at some point, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “and I thought that maybe this would make her stop and think and redirect her focus away from these outrageous conspiracy theories to something that’s actually real.”

“She is not a whistleblower,” countered Assistant District Attorney Matthew Westphal. “She’s not exposing information. She’s committing election fraud. As a society, we cannot tolerate people who break the law when there are multiple legitimate means to raise those same concerns.”

It seems the jury agreed, and Zapata now faces up to five years in prison. She and her attorney both declined to comment after the verdict.

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