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Rep. Janel Brandtjen Unsure of Defense in Milwaukee Military Ballot Trial

The former Milwaukee election manager who sent three fake military ballots to a state lawmaker back in 2022 is claiming to be a whistleblower, but the lawmaker who got those ballots isn’t sure.

Kimberly Zapata’s trial began this week. She’s the former Milwaukee Election Commission supervisor charged with official misconduct after she mailed three military ballots to state Rep. Janel Brandtjen ahead of the 2022 election.

Zapata’s lawyers said she is “political whistleblower” who simply wanted to ensure a “fair and secure” election.

“I had never met or known Kim Zapata. Her case makes it abundantly clear that the online WISvote system allows anyone, under indefinitely-confined, overseas or military ballots to request and receive a ballot, without security. In addition, the system allows ballot requests with a VPN, meaning the persons who request a ballot may never be known,” Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, told The Center Square. “If Ms. Zapata had wanted to point out a concern in the election process, she could have anonymously picked up the phone rather than put her job and her reputation at risk.”

Brandtjen has been one of the loudest critics of Wisconsin’s electoral system.

She led the legislative investigation in 2021 into the lingering questions about the 2020 presidential election in the state. Her focus on possible election fraud eventually led to her falling out with top Republican leaders.

Brandtjen continues to be critical of how the Republican-controlled legislature has not closed the military ballot loophole that Zapata is accused of using to send Brandtjen those three ballots.

“Neither the legislature, governor, Republican or Democrat parties have addressed the fact that military ballots requests are not being confirmed which is required by law,” Brandtjen said. “And the online WISvote System allows anyone to request and send some types of ballots without confirmed identity.”

Zapata’s trail is expected to take the rest of the week, and reports suggest she won’t call any witnesses in her own defense.

Brandtjen said she’s not sure what to make of Zapata’s defense.

“I cannot speak to the intent of Kim Zapata since I have never spoken to her. It was my report to the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department that asked for an investigation of who requested the ballots, since one of those ballots had my last name attached. I was never contacted by WEC or any investigators,” she said. “If Kim Zapata had used a VPN, and not come forward, I would have been under suspicion of creating my own ballot requests, which I never could have disproved.”

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