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Jailhouse voter registration by Supervisor of Elections results in first arrest

BY TIM MARDEN

Kelvin Bolton, 55, was arrested yesterday on three third-degree felony charges: one count of perjury and two counts of voting by an unqualified voter. He is the first of what could be multiple arrests related to a jailhouse voting drive conducted by the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections (SOE) Kim Barton’s office in 2020.  

Jail visitation logs indicate that T.J. Pyche, then-Director of Outreach for the SOE, went to the Alachua County Jail and registered inmates on three different occasions in 2020. The visits were apparently prompted by changes to Florida law regarding the voting rights of felons: Florida voters passed a Constitutional Amendment (known as Amendment 4) in 2018, restoring voting rights to felons across the state with certain notable exceptions. The legislature later passed a law implementing the amendment; the law included a requirement that all restitution, fees, and fines related to the sentence had to be paid. That law was challenged in court, leading to confusion over the course of 2020 about which felons were eligible to vote. Emails described in a report issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) indicate that at least some of Pyche’s visits were prompted by court rulings.

Bolton allegedly cast a vote in the 2020 election without having paid his restitution and also checked a box on the voter registration form that said he had either had his votings rights restored or was not a convicted felon. Bolton’s arrest record is lengthy and dates back to 1982. Charges include child neglect, grand theft, battery, cocaine possession, burglary, and indecent exposure. He has served nine prison terms in the Department of Corrections and was most recently released on April 1, 2022.

The arrest comes after citizen activist Mark Glaeser’s year-long investigation into the matter. Glaeser exposed the SOE’s jailhouse voter registration drive and cross-referenced voters who registered on those dates with those casting votes in the November 2020 election. He then investigated the criminal history of each one to identify those who had potentially voted illegally.

Glaeser brought his findings to the attention of Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr., State Attorney Brian Kramer, and area media. 

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Sheriff Watson turned the matter over to FDLE due to the involvement of a fellow Constitutional officer (Barton), and their report was presented to Kramer’s office on February 4. A redacted version of the report was released this week and is covered here. Kramer’s office sent Alachua Chronicle the following statement this week regarding any pending charges against the SOE or her office: “Our office has filed formal charges on 10 defendants. There aren’t any additional charges being filed unless new or additional  evidence is presented.” 

T.J. Pyche and the SOE’s office have come under scrutiny for conducting the voter registration drive in the first place. Public record requests (detailed in the FDLE report) found internal emails indicating that SOE office staff, including Pyche, were fully aware of the new law’s requirements that felons must complete their sentences, including financial requirements.  

Barton contends that the voter is ultimately responsible for determining their own eligibility and denies any wrongdoing. It remains to be seen whether Pyche (who reportedly hired an attorney and invoked the fifth amendment when contacted by FDLE) had a professional obligation to inform potential voters of their responsibilities; witness accounts in FDLE’s report conflict about whether he explained the requirements to the inmates or left them with the impression that the SOE would check their eligibility.

FDLE officials forwarded ten potential cases of illegal voting to the State Attorney related to the jail house registration drive, and Kramer’s office has filed charges against all ten. In addition to Bolton, who is in the Alachua County Jail on $30,000 bond, seven others are serving state prison sentences. Warrants have not been issued yet for Leroy J. Ross or John B. Rivers, who remain at large.

So far no cases are pending against anyone associated with Barton’s office.

  • I think Barton is ultimately responsible…she knew or
    Should have known…it’s a trial issue. Let the jury decide.

    • Psyche & Barton should both be charged and when
      Convicted, they both should do time and Lose their voting rights
      Like the criminals they allowed to vote and who are
      Currently charged…There has to be accountability…
      They thought they were gonna get away with it…
      Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

      • I think it was more like late 2018 or early 2019, but people were posting on Gainesville Word of Mouth that felons could go and register even if they hadn’t paid all their money yet.

  • Desantis should appoint Glaeser as the new SOE
    Since he did Barton’s job. Barton is a gatekeeper
    And did not do her job. I bet
    all the illegal voters were democrats and voted democrat. If so, then that evidence is damning.

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