- Devin LeMahieu stated that he is looking at legislation that would change Wisconsin’s military absentee voting laws.
- Military voters are not required to register to vote in Wisconsin; they only need to provide their name, address, and date of birth to receive an absentee ballot.
- Former Director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, Kimberly Zapata, illegally obtained three military absentee ballots by providing fake voter information and sending it to the home of Janel Brandtjen.
- Both individuals involved have been removed from their positions.
- Zapata pleaded not guilty, claiming she was trying to expose the vulnerabilities in the election system.
- Democrats have loudly and intensely expressed opposition to Republicans who push to make voting processes more secure.
- Some lawmakers question whether changes to the law are worth the trouble, as military absentee ballots make up a tiny portion of the vote in Wisconsin.
The Republican leader of the Wisconsin Senate, Devin LeMahieu, commented that he is looking at legislation that would change the state’s military absentee voting laws, reversing his previous position.
His support for taking action comes after members of the bipartisan Wisconsin Election Commission said changes to that law could be the best path to address most Republican concerns regarding voter fraud.
Policymakers started becoming increasingly concerned about military voters after a top Milwaukee elections official was charged with making false requests for military absentee ballots, sending them to the home of a state lawmaker days before midterm elections.
Military voters are not required to register to vote in Wisconsin; they only need to provide their name, address, and date of birth to receive an absentee ballot.
This action revealed how easy it is to cheat with military ballots. Oddly enough, it was deputy director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, Kimberly Zapata. It’s not completely clear why Zapata thought sending fabricated military absentee ballots to Janel Brandtjen was a good idea, but now she’s facing legal repercussions.
Zapata was tasked with the responsibility of counting absentee ballots in Milwaukee. She had sent these phony absentee ballots to Republican state lawmaker Janel Brandtjen.
Mayor Cavalier Johnson called the move a “blatant violation of trust.” Mayor Johnson removed Zapata from her role after hearing the allegations against her.
Zapata pleaded not guilty last week after explaining to prosecutors that she was trying to prove a point, exposing the vulnerabilities in the election system. According to the criminal complaint, Kimberly Zapata illegally requested and used fictitious voter information to obtain three military absentee ballots.
Last month, LeMahieu said he had no plans to change military voting laws. Now he’s quickly changed his tune, stating, “I think the incident that happened in Waukesha County highlighted how easy it could be to cheat with military ballots, to get fraudulent ballots sent to a home. So I think it warrants looking into that process.”
Don Millis, the Republican chair of the election commission, stated that he is tentatively planning a proposal for the Legislature concerning military voting at the commission meeting in February.
Millis said he was “very happy” that lawmakers may be willing to act on the idea.
While voter fraud in Wisconsin is generally considered rare, there is still an issue with state residents and lawmakers not wanting to invest their trust in the voting system fully. Loopholes like this one, where military absentee ballots can quickly be obtained, falsified, and used to vote, is a clear red flag.
Democrats have loudly and intensely expressed opposition to Republicans who push to make the voting process more secure, claiming that securing and improving the system is a way to make it more difficult for voters who back democrats to cast their votes. I.e., disabled, people of color, etc.
However, strengthening the system serves all and ensures that Wisconsinites are given fair and free elections. The ideas and proposals offered by Republicans aim to make voting more secure and reliable, not to make it more challenging. The integrity of the voting system is essential. We can’t stop the constant suspicions that voter fraud is occurring if we aren’t actively evaluating these processes and identifying where we can improve them.
Addressing WI Military Voting Laws
Election researchers have claimed that there are a few pathways to verify the identities of military voters without brushing up with federal ID laws. Those laws prohibit states from requiring permanent overseas and military voters to provide photo identification. One option, which Michigan is already utilizing, allows service members to vote online and digitally sign their ballot with a common access card, AKA the standard ID issued to all service members by the Dept. of Defense.
Some lawmakers question whether changes to the law are worth the trouble, as military absentee ballots make up a tiny portion of the vote in the badger state, around 0.07% of the absentee ballots requested. The election commission has stated that a spike in military voting numbers would be apparent and quickly noticed; since that portion of votes is minute.
In the last session, Democratic Governor Tony Evers vetoed over a dozen election-related bills proposed by Republicans. LeMahieu stated that he expects to bring fewer election-related bills to the table this time, as his caucus will be limiting its work on proposals that have little chance of making it past the Governor’s veto pen.