Kimberly Zapata ballot fraud case; preliminary hearing waived

Kimberly Zapata, the fired assistant director of the Milwaukee Electoral Commission who is still on the city’s payroll, appeared Friday, December 9, in Milwaukee District Court for a scheduled preliminary hearing. Zapata waived her right to this preliminary hearing – and pleaded not guilty to misconduct in office. The court set Zapata’s next court date for February 3, 2023.

Last week, Zapata pleaded not guilty to the voter fraud charges.

Prosecutors charged Zapata in early November with misconduct in public office and three counts of voter fraud for making false statements in order to obtain a postal vote.

Prosecutors allege that Zapata admitted to ordering military elections for non-existent individuals. Clerks mailed three ballots to the home of State Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls). Prosecutors said their motive was to show weaknesses in the electoral system.

Milwaukee District Court Commissioner Maria Dorsey on Friday, December 2, ordered Zapata not to hold an election while the case progresses. She also ordered no contact with Brandtjen. Dorsey also said Zapata was unable to contact her former boss, Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg.

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On Friday, the assistant district attorney asked for a change to that order.

“The arrangement was originally no contact with Janel Brandtjen and Claire Woodall-Vogg. I am asking that they be amended to indicate for Ms. Woodall-Vogg that there is no contact except for the limited purpose of an employment investigation and/or disciplinary proceedings currently pending against Ms. Zapata,” said Matthew Westphal, deputy District Attorney.

The court commissioner approved the change.

The conservative law firm The Thomas More Society lists Bongiorno as one of their attorneys. The firm also includes former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman.

Zapata served on the Milwaukee Electoral Commission for seven years.

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Bongiorno added in court last Friday that Zapata is “technically still” employed by the commission. Milwaukee Department of Employee Relations spokeswoman Angelica Duria said city leaders had fired Zapata from her role as assistant director, but she has reinstatement rights based on her previous public service position. At the moment, she remains on the city’s payroll on administrative leave while the city follows the necessary steps of discipline and investigation.

Zapata is scheduled to appear in court again in February. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison.

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