Milwaukee mayor ousts election commission executive director a week after former deputy director sentenced for election fraud

The executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission is now out just one week after one of her former colleagues on the commission was sentenced for committing election fraud.

On Monday, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, a Democrat, announced that he had removed Claire Woodall, aka Claire Woodall-Vogg, as executive director of the commission. However, there seem to be differing explanations for Johnson’s decision to remove her.

Just before noon on Monday, ABC News reported that Jeff Fleming, a spokesman for the mayor, cited “issues internal to the election commission office and to city government that raised concern” as the reason for her removal but indicated that such “issues” did not relate to how she ran elections.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel then reported around 2:30 p.m. that Mayor Johnson had denied firing Woodall, claiming he had offered her another position that she seems disinclined to accept. He refused to state whether she had lost her job for “any wrongdoing,” the outlet said.

A “dedicated public servant, who is passionate about quelling voter suppression”

Johnson first nominated Woodall for the executive director position in the summer of 2020. At the time, Johnson described Woodall as a “dedicated public servant, who is passionate about quelling voter suppression and overcoming the barriers faced by our electorate to ensure that everyone in our city has free and fair access to electoral participation.”

Following the contentious 2020 presidential election, Woodall claimed she had received numerous threats against her safety and even insisted two years ago that she would work remotely if Milwaukee ended up hosting the 2024 Republican National Convention — which it will.

“Should MKE host the RNC, you will find me working remotely out of state that week, lest I be hung in the town square like some have threatened,” she reportedly wrote on the social media platform then known as Twitter. She deleted her Twitter account a few days later.

With Woodall now off the Milwaukee Election Commission, Johnson has since nominated deputy director Paulina Gutierrez to fill the vacancy. “Paulina’s integrity and capabilities are ideally suited to this position. She will lead the office at an important juncture when public scrutiny of the work of the department will be extremely high,” Johnson said in a statement. “I have confidence in her, and I will make certain the department has the resources it needs to fulfill its duties.”

Gutierrez has been deputy director for a little more than a year. Milwaukee’s Common Council still needs to approve her nomination before she can assume the role of executive director.

Neither Woodall nor Gutierrez responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

The news about Woodall comes just one week after former Milwaukee Election Commission deputy director Kimberly Zapata was sentenced for four charges related to her actions while in office.

In March, Zapata was convicted of one count of felony misconduct in public office and three counts of misdemeanor election fraud, as Blaze News previously reported. Zapata was sentenced to probation and a $3,000 fine after she requested absentee ballots for non-existing military members and then sent those ballots to Republican state Rep. Janel Brandtjen, who has openly questioned Joe Biden’s victory in Wisconsin in 2020.

Kimberly Zapata guilty in Milwaukee ballot fraud case | FOX6 News Milwaukeeyoutu.be

Zapata did not deny sending the fraudulent ballots. Instead, she admitted she views herself as “a whistleblower” who attempted to expose a serious flaw in the state’s election procedures.

“[Rep. Brandtjen] is the most vocal election fraud politician that I know of,” Zapata said to explain her actions, “and I thought that maybe this would make her stop and think and redirect her focus away from these outrageous conspiracy theories [about the 2020 election] to something that’s actually real.”

Woodall apparently agreed with Zapata’s claims though not with her method of addressing them. Before Zapata’s sentencing, Woodall wrote that “despite the harm [Zapata] has caused, her actions were rooted in a very real security vulnerability that state statute has created and that continues to persist.”

Woodall also indicated that the accusations against Zapata affected her as well: “As the executive director of the Election Commission, I faced severe skepticism and criticism from my colleagues, employees, and the citizens that I serve after Kim’s actions came to light.”

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