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Lawsuit seeks to block counting of military ballots in Wisconsin

Kimberly Zapata was deputy director of the Milwaukee Election Commission. She was fired after sending falsely obtained military absentee ballots to the home of a Republican state lawmaker who has been an outspoken critic of how the 2020 election was administered. (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via AP)

MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin lawmaker who has been a frequent promoter of false election claims is suing to prevent the immediate counting of military ballots in her state after she received three ballots under fake names.

The lawsuit, filed on Friday, was brought by a veterans group and three individuals, including Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R), the chairwoman of the State Assembly’s elections committee.

Last week, Brandtjen received three military ballots under fictitious names that were allegedly sent to her by Kimberly Zapata, a Milwaukee election official. Election officials have criticized Brandtjen for spreading false claims about the system, and Zapata later told prosecutors she was trying to alert Brandtjen about an actual weakness in the state’s voting system that should be addressed.

Days later Zapata was fired and charged with a felony and three misdemeanors.

Unlike most states, Wisconsin allows military members to cast ballots without registering to vote or providing proof of residency. Military ballots make up a tiny fraction of votes in Wisconsin — about 1,400 so far for Tuesday’s election.

Brandtjen and the others are using the incident to argue that military ballots should not be counted unless election officials can show they complied with a state law requiring them to maintain lists of all eligible military voters.

Brandtjen’s attorney, Erick Kaardal of the conservative Thomas More Society, said state officials have handled elections in a way that is “conducive to vote fraud.”

Will Attig, director of the Union Veterans Council, expressed alarm at the attempt to prevent counting military ballots.

“These are service members defending our country that have the right to vote and their means to vote is by mail,” he said. “We’ve got what to me appears to be an orchestrated plan by election deniers who do not truly support our democracy.”

The 2022 Midterm Elections

Georgia runoff election: Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) won re-election in the Georgia Senate runoff, defeating Republican challenger Herschel Walker and giving Democrats a 51st seat in the Senate for the 118th Congress. Get live updates here and runoff results by county.

Divided government: Republicans narrowly won back control of the House, while Democrats will keep control of the Senate, creating a split Congress.

What the results mean for 2024: A Republican Party red wave seems to be a ripple after Republicans fell short in the Senate and narrowly won control in the House. Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign shortly after the midterms. Here are the top 10 2024 presidential candidates for the Republicans and Democrats.