Officials with the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm, have sued the Wisconsin Election Commission, seeking to have military absentee ballots be sequestered until they can be verified.
The move comes after a scenario developed when three of those ballots were sent – wrongly – to a private residence.
“The purpose of this is to verify that those ballots are authentic and not fraudulent, such as the three military absentee ballots recently sent by the since-fired deputy administrator of the city of Milwaukee Election Commission to the home of Wisconsin State Representative Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, who is chairman of the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections,” the legal team explained.
The action was taken on behalf of Concerned Veterans of Waukesha County and several named voters, including Brandtjen.
“This is the latest in a host of complaints filed against the Wisconsin Election Commission,” said Erick Kaardal, counsel for the society, who is working with former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gablement, now senior counsel for the society.
“Representative Brandtjen received the three fraudulent military ballots at her home address,” Kaardal said. “None of the individuals to whom these ballots were addressed reside, or have resided, at her address. Upon investigation, the ballots were found to be classified as military absentee ballots, and were originally mailed by municipal clerks in Menomonee Falls, Shorewood, and South Milwaukee. All three ballots were addressed to voters identified by the first name ‘Holly.’ Those identical names – along with the concurrent arrival of those ballots at Brandtjen’s home – make it likely that those voters don’t actually exist.”
He continued, “The Wisconsin Elections Commission’s consistent disregard for the state’s election statutes has created an environment conducive to vote fraud.”
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Kaardal was field artillery captain in the U.S. Army and served with both Illinois and Minnesota National Guard units.
“This situation is particularly egregious as it demonstrates how easily the military absentee mail-in vote can be manipulated due to the commission’s lack of compliance with Wisconsin election law. What a disgraceful way to dishonor our military service men and women and our veterans; by allowing their voting privileges to be abused,” he said.
Gableman explained that the guidance from the Wisconsin Elections Commission – given to county and municipal clerks – regarding those ballots actually fails to meet the requirements of state law.
“Wisconsin Statutes 6.22(6) requires a ‘military elector list,’ which is up-to-date, complete, verified, current, accurate and distributed,” he said. “Each municipal clerk is required, under Wisconsin election law, to maintain and distribute an up-to-date, complete, verified, current, and accurate roll of all eligible military electors who reside in the municipality. Yet, the Wisconsin Election Commission’s guidance to clerks on military absentee ballots does not require any of those standards to be met, nor does it even mention a ‘military elector list.’ Rather, the Wisconsin Election Commission has told clerks that military voters who choose to register can do so in person or online and need not provide any proof of residence to do so.”
He said the commission essentially has been allowing a system that “facilitates the procurement, manufacture, and distribution of fraudulent ballots.”
The case that triggered the dispute involved Kimberly Zapata, formerly the deputy director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, who was fired after allegedly asking for ballots for fictitious voters from clerks.
She allegedly arranged for the ballots to be sent to Brandtjen, who chairs of the Assembly elections committee and has voiced concerns over the integrity of the election systems.
While Brandtjen said, “I believe someone was trying to point out how easy it is to get military ballots in Wisconsin,” published reports said Zapata’s motive “wasn’t immediately clear.”
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said his office was reviewing allegations against Zapata and that he expects charges to be filed.
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