Florida investigation launched into whether inmates were registered and voted illegally in 2020

Florida investigation launched into whether inmates were
registered and voted illegally in 2020 1

ALACHUA COUNTY, FL — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is investigating whether at least two election officials in one county were involved with illegally registering inmates to vote in the primary and general elections of 2020.

The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections is being investigated on accusations of voter fraud that involves ineligible inmates at the Alachua County Jail.

According to an email from State Attorney Brian Kramer, Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton and one of her employees are under investigation for registering ineligible voters at the Alachua County Jail and accepting ballots from those inmates in both the primary and general elections of 2020 Alachua Chronicle reported.

WCJB reported that an Alachua County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said its office handed off the investigation to FDLE, which is reviewing the Supervisor of Elections Office’s registration of 18 inmates to determine if they voted illegally.

WCJB also reported that the Alachua County Attorney’s Office said it was working to learn more about the investigation, which they just found out about, but also said to their knowledge all standard procedures were followed.

The alleged voter fraud was exposed by the local podcast The Ward Scott Files earlier this spring when it placed a public records request and received an email that had been sent to Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton from the Florida Department of State.

According to Alachua Chronicle’s report, the email that The Ward Scott Files had received was from the Florida Department of State, which informed Barton and all other Supervisors of Elections on July 6, 2020 of an Order from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Order stated that supervisors could accept registrations and ballots only from convicted felons who had satisfied the “amount of all fees, costs, restitution, and fines ordered as part of the felony sentence,” with no exceptions for inability to pay.

In addition, the email also referenced Florida’s statute 98.0751, which says convicted felons who wish to register or vote must have been released from “any term of imprisonment ordered by the court as a part of the sentence.”

Alachua Chronicle’s report noted that Barton then forwarded this email to several people in her office, including T.J. Pyche, the Director of Communications and Outreach for the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections, on July 6, adding, “Very important!”

Alachua Chronicle’s report further indicated:

“On July 15, 2020, the Alachua County Jail’s visitor log shows that Pyche arrived at the jail at 9:10 a.m. and left at 11:28 a.m. for the purpose of ‘voter reg[istration].’ The investigation by The Ward Scott Files found that of 18 inmates who they determined were likely ineligible to vote and who subsequently voted by mail from the jail, 9 of them were registered on July 15.

“According to the Florida Statutes on Election Code Violations and Penalties, Chapter 104, any person who ‘knowingly aids, abets, or advises the violation of this code shall be punished in like manner as the principal offender,’ which would be a felony for each illegal registration.”

The Ward Scott Files investigation found that of the 18 who voted from the jail, 10 had recent convictions before voting in the 2020 general election and were thus still serving their sentences at the time of the election, which violated the law according to their assessment.

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In addition, 12 of the inmates who voted are now in state prison, and four are awaiting trial for battery, kidnapping, homicide and murder. All 18 owe fines, fees and/or restitution from cases that precede their registrations and/or ballots, according to The Ward Scott Files.

The results of the investigation by The Ward Scott Files were formally presented to the Public Integrity and Elections Committee in Tallahassee, and the committee “confirmed the validity of these facts as presented” reported Alachua Chronicle.

The Ward Scott Files had also presented the information to Brian Kramer, the State Attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, on May 12, 2021, according to the report. Kramer had assigned the investigation to Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson, who then forwarded the investigation to FDLE, which has accepted the investigation.

Alachua Chronicle reported that a May 20 email from Kramer’s office to The Ward Scott Files investigator Mark Glaeser mentioned two investigations — one pertaining to the registration and voting of inmates and another on possible improper conduct by an employee of the Supervisor of Elections Office.

Kramer also said that FDLE investigations “tend to be extremely thorough, but they take far longer to complete.” The email chain also identified State Representative Chuck Clemons as a source of information regarding alleged voter fraud that may have occurred at the jail.

Clemons told Alachua Chronicle he is unable to comment “while an investigation is underway.”

When Alachua Chronicle reached out to Barton’s office for comment, it received the following statement from Pyche:

“Our office isn’t aware of any FDLE investigations at this time, nor have we received any direction from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections about this practice.”

Last October, Barton was a guest columnist and wrote an opinion piece titled, “Election Day is almost here,”  for The Gainesville Sun.

Barton wrote in part:

“Writing this, I find myself days from Election Day for the 2020 general election, my first presidential election as your supervisor of elections — though certainly not my first as an employee of this office.

“Through the first week of early voting, I have found many people are on edge and quick to anger. They recognize what is at stake for their chosen candidates or issues, and that has likely lent itself to this behavior.”

Barton previously wrote another op-ed in April of 2020 titled, “Uncertain times call for flexibility in elections.”

She wrote in part:

“Our options for how to cast our ballots have grown, starting with no-excuse vote-by-mail following the 2000 election cycle and then early voting in the mid-2000s. During the 2018 general election, more than 60% of Alachua County voters chose not to vote on Election Day.

“Voters have shown that they are able to adapt to changes and become comfortable with new voting methods.

“Our current situation with COVID-19 calls for additional changes to voter behavior. Practicing social distancing will likely remain a constant in our daily lives and our office will need to change how we function to follow guidelines.

“With respect only to elections, we are fortunate social distancing and stay-at-home provisions were put in place prior to an election with a relatively low turnout and not during a general election, when more than twice as many voters would be heading to the polls or early voting sites.”

Barton also wrote another op-ed in which she pushed for voting by mail.

Barton wrote:

“Now, looking ahead at the next two countywide elections – the primary election in August and the general election in November – I immediately recognize two things voters can do to better prepare.

“The first is to sign up to vote by mail. I understand many people enjoy and look forward to going to their polling place or favorite early voting site. Requesting a mail ballot doesn’t mean giving that up. What it does mean, however, is positioning yourself to have the option to vote by mail.”

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