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No jail time for former Milwaukee election manager in fake ballots case

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(The Center Square) – It’s probation and a fine for the former Milwaukee election manager who mailed three fake ballots during the 2022 election.

A Milwaukee County judge sentenced Kimberly Zapata to a year of probation and a $3,000 fine.

The judge rejected the idea Zapata was a whistle-blower who was trying to expose a flaw in Wisconsin’s voting system.

“I think you had legitimate means to go about solving an issue that you identified, and I think you took a shortcut,” Judge Kori Ashley said at Zapata’s sentencing.

Zapata mailed three fake military ballots to Republican State Rep. Janel Brandtjen ahead of the 2022 midterms. Brandtjen then alerted the authorities.

Brandtjen has said for months that she doesn’t believe Zapata’s whistle-blower claim either.

“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 told The Center Square in March. “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. 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.”

Zapata claimed she wanted to show how vulnerable Wisconin’s military absentee ballot system was at the time.

“I now recognize my actions did not match my best intentions,” Zapata told the judge at her sentencing.

Zapata’s defense said she mailed the fake military ballots to Brandtjen because Brandtjen has been a vocal critic of Wisconsin’s electoral system since the 2020 election. Zapata said she wanted to focus Brantjen’s attention on the real vulnerabilities of Wisconsin’s system, as opposed to what she called ‘conspiracy theories.’

Zapata’s lawyer says he plans to appeal the judge’s sentence.

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