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State Attorney confirms that FDLE is investigating Alachua County Supervisor of Elections for registering ineligible jail inmates as voters and accepting illegal ballots

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

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.

The Ward Scott Files began investigating the issue in early Spring 2021 and received an email via a public records request in which the Florida Department of State informed Barton and all other Supervisors of Elections on July 6, 2020, of an Order from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, stating 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. The email also references Florida Statutes section 98.0751, which says the 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.”

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Barton forwarded this 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!” 

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, a clear violation of the law. 12 of the inmates who voted are now in state prison, and 4 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 information from The Ward Scott Files, the results of this investigation were formally presented to the Public Integrity and Elections Committee in Tallahassee, and the committee “confirmed the validity of these facts as presented.” The Ward Scott Files also presented the information to Brian Kramer, the State Attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, on May 12, 2021. Kramer assigned the investigation to Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson, and Watson forwarded the investigation to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement [FDLE], which has accepted the investigation.

A May 20 email from Kramer’s office to The Ward Scott Files investigator Mark Glaeser mentioned two investigations, “One being the [sic] related to the registration and voting of inmates, the other being anything that may have been improper 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.” That email chain also identified State Representative Chuck Clemons as a source of information “regarding alleged voter fraud that would have occurred in the [jail].”

We reached out to Barton’s office for comment, and Pyche sent the following statement: “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.”

Clemons said he is unable to comment “while an investigation is underway.”

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