A judge in the US state of Wisconsin has declined to issue an order delaying the count of absentee military ballots, arguing that this would disenfranchise voters. The decision came after the state’s former elections director deliberately sent three fake ballots to highlight vulnerabilities in the voting system.
Waukesha County Judge Michael Maxwell dropped a lawsuit by state Rep. Janel Brandtjen, a Republican, who requested that more than 1,000 military ballots be sequestered until they could be proven genuine. Maxwell called the idea a “drastic remedy” that could see legitimate voters disenfranchised.
The suit was filed after Brandtjen received three fake military ballots from Kimberly Zapata, formerly the deputy director of the Milwaukee Election Commission. Zapata told the Washington Post that she ordered the ballots using fake names, in an effort to show how the state’s voting system is open to fraud.
“It’s not conspiracy theories,” she told the newspaper. “But on the other hand, it’s not nothing either.”
Wisconsin allows members of the military to receive and cast ballots without registering to vote or providing any proof of residence. The state asks non-military voters to provide photo ID at polling stations, although any voter may ask for a mail ballot, in which case only registration is needed.
Zapata was charged on Friday with felony misconduct and making false statements to obtain absentee ballots. She faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
“I believe someone was trying to point out how easy it is to get military ballots in Wisconsin,” Rep. Brandtjen said in a statement last week. “I think it’s sad that people feel they have to break the law to get the attention of the legislature.”
President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by less than a single percentage point in 2020. While former President Donald Trump accused the Democratic Party of committing fraud, an investigation found no evidence for his claims.
Ahead of Tuesday’s midterm vote, incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, holds a single-point lead over Democrat challenger Mandela Barnes. In the race for the governor’s mansion, incumbent Tony Evers, a Democrat, is three points ahead of Republican contender Tim Michels, according to a Civiqs poll.