Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, has filed a lawsuit seeking a court order requiring the sequestering of military absentee ballots in Wisconsin. Here, she is seen during a convening of the Assembly at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Jan. 25, 2020 in Madison, Wis.
Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, has filed a lawsuit seeking a court order requiring the sequestering of military absentee ballots in Wisconsin. Here, she is seen during a convening of the Assembly at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Jan. 25, 2020 in Madison, Wis. (Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch)
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The Republican chair of the Wisconsin Assembly’s elections committee along with a veterans group and other voters have filed a lawsuit seeking a court order requiring the sequestering of military absentee ballots in the battleground state.

The lawsuit from state Rep. Janel Brandtjen, filed Friday in Waukesha County Circuit Court, comes after a top Milwaukee County elections official was charged with fraudulently requesting three military ballots using fake names and having them sent to Brandtjen as way to expose vulnerabilities in Wisconsin elections. Kimberly Zapata, deputy director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, was fired last week and now faces charges of felony misconduct in office and three misdemeanor counts of election fraud.

The lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction requiring elections officials in Wisconsin to set aside military ballots so their authenticity can be verified. The court had taken no action on the lawsuit as of Monday morning, with less than 36 hours before polls close on Tuesday.

Military ballots comprise a tiny fraction of all ballots cast in the state. On average, they represent about 0.07% of all absentee ballots requested, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. In the 2018 election, 2,700 military ballots were requested and as of Thursday, 2,747 military ballots had been requested for the current election.

In Wisconsin, military voters are not required to register to vote, meaning they don’t need to provide a photo ID to request an absentee ballot.

All absentee ballots must be received by the close of polls at 8 p.m. Tuesday in order to be counted. As of Sunday, more than 715,000 absentee ballots had been returned.

Brandtjen said in a statement Sunday announcing the filing of the lawsuit that she was hopeful the courts could act quickly.

“Now that we know just how easy it is to illegally acquire military ballots, I’m asking the courts to confirm active military status until we can close these loopholes,” Brandtjen said. “We all want to protect our military members from having their valor stolen in such a despicable fashion.”

Brandtjen has pushed conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. She, two other voters and Concerned Veterans of Waukesha County are represented by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who investigated the 2020 election in Wisconsin and is now an attorney for the conservative Thomas More Society.

Gableman was fired from his investigatory job earlier this year by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos after his work was widely ridiculed and did not present any evidence to overcome President Joe Biden’s victory. He previously appeared in court representing Harry Wait, who was charged with election fraud and identity theft after requesting and receiving absentee ballots in the names of legislators and local officials in July.

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Scott Bauer is the head of the AP bureau in Madison, covering state government and politics.