Former election official fined for obtaining fake military ballots

MADISON, Wis. — A former Milwaukee election official convicted of misconduct in workplace and fraud for obtaining fake military absentee ballots was sentenced Thursday to at least one 12 months of probation and fined $3,000.

Kimberly Zapata, 47, additionally was ordered to finish 120 hours of neighborhood service.

Prosecutors charged Zapata in November 2022 with one felony depend of misconduct in public workplace and three misdemeanor counts of election fraud. A jury in March found her guilty on all 4 counts.

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Kori Ashley rejected an argument by Zapata’s attorneys that she was appearing as a whistleblower, telling her earlier than handing down the sentence that she had methods to make her level apart from breaking the legislation.

Speaking simply earlier than the sentence was handed down, Zapata mentioned she regretted her actions that she mentioned “stemmed from a complete emotional breakdown,” Wisconsin Public Radio reported. She mentioned she has autism spectrum dysfunction, which makes it tough for her to control feelings, sensory enter and thought processes.

“When someone uses my name, I want them to think of good qualities and the good things I have done,” Zapata mentioned. “I don’t wish to be forever attached to what I did in that 8-minute window of my life.”

The felony cost carried a most sentence of three 1/2 years in jail. Each misdemeanor depend carried a most six-month sentence.

Milwaukee Assistant District Attorney Matthew Westphal mentioned Zapata’s actions have been “an attack on our electoral system,” which solely works if the general public can belief these administering it.

“Accusations of election fraud have literally led to violence and a violent insurrection in Washington, D.C.,” Westphal mentioned. “That’s kind of the behavior we’re looking at here on the spectrum. That’s where we end up when we have people that are violating their duties, and that are putting forth this false information.”

In a sentencing memorandum, Zapata’s protection lawyer Daniel Adams advisable a $500 advantageous and mentioned any time behind bars can be “a gross injustice and completely unnecessary.”

“She has zero prior criminal record and has been convicted of non-violent offenses,” he wrote to Ashley. “Her intention was not to steal votes but to expose a legitimate flaw in the elections system.”

Zapata served as deputy director on the Milwaukee Election Commission in October 2022 when she used her work-issued laptop computer to acquire three military absentee ballots utilizing fake names and Social Security numbers, in accordance with a criminal complaint. She despatched the ballots to Republican state Rep. Janel Brandtjen, an election conspiracy theorist, two weeks earlier than the state’s gubernatorial and legislative elections.

After officers realized of her actions, she was fired from her job with town.

Active military personnel wouldn’t have to register to vote or present photograph identification to acquire absentee ballots in Wisconsin. Zapata informed investigators that she was confused over dying threats fee employees had been receiving from election conspiracy theorists and she or he wished to shift their consideration to actual flaws within the system.

Milwaukee, dwelling to the biggest variety of Democrats in Wisconsin, has been a goal for complaints from former President Donald Trump and his supporters, who made unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud to assault Biden’s 2020 victory.

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