Voting Fraud Charges for 3 in Florida’s Villages
All were residents of the famed, sprawling retirement community northwest of Orlando. Two were Republicans, and one had no affiliation.,
Three residents of a sprawling Florida retirement community were arrested over the last two weeks on charges of voting more than once in the 2020 general election, according to the authorities.
The residents, Jay Ketcik, 63, Joan Halstead, 72, and John Rider, 61, lived in The Villages, a planned community northwest of Orlando where former President Donald J. Trump held a campaign rally shortly before the 2020 election.
The three were each charged with casting more than one ballot in an election, according to arrest records from the office of the state attorney in the Fifth Judicial Circuit in Florida.
Each charge is a third-degree felony and punishable by up to five years in prison, said Bill Gladson, the state attorney for the Fifth Judicial Circuit in Ocala, Fla. Citing rules of professional conduct, Mr. Gladson said on Wednesday that he could not comment on pending cases. Ms. Halstead declined to comment on Wednesday. Mr. Rider and a lawyer for Mr. Ketcik did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Court records did not say for whom the three voted in the 2020 general election or in what other elections they voted out of state. Voting records in the Florida Department of State list Mr. Ketcik and Ms. Halstead as registered Republicans. Mr. Rider has no party affiliation on record.
About a 45-minute drive northwest from Orlando, the community was built in the 1960s as a collection of tracts and grew in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s with retirees from Northern states as its organizers added amenities such as movie theaters, shopping and other leisure activities. With more than 130,000 residents, the community of adults 55 and older, which stretches into three counties, has become one of Florida’s fastest-growing metro areas.
It is unlikely the disputed votes had any effect on the 2020 election. Mr. Trump won Florida by about 51.2 percent and by an even far greater margins in The Villages, although Joe Biden had energetic supporters there as well. After residents who supported Mr. Trump held a golf cart rally amid counterprotesters, he tweeted a video of the event, writing, “Thank you to the great people of The Villages.” Then came his rally in October.
Following his defeat in the 2020 election, Mr. Trump made baseless claims of rampant voter fraud, which failed to gain any traction in courts across seven states. But the former president and his allies have continued to repeat the false allegations.
But election officials in dozens of states representing both political parties have said that there was no evidence that fraud or other irregularities played a role deciding the presidential race. In general, voter fraud is extremely rare in the United States, and cases that do occur are often isolated and unlikely to affect an election.
Mr. Ketcik and Ms. Halstead turned themselves in to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center on Nov. 29 and Dec. 8, according to the sheriff’s office. Mr. Rider was arrested by Brevard County deputies at a cruise ship terminal at Port Canaveral on Dec. 3, according to prosecutors.
It was not clear whether the three residents knew each other. Each was booked into a detention center or jail and released the same day of their arrest, records show.
A probable cause affidavit said that, in addition to casting more than one vote in Florida in October 2020, Ms. Halstead and Mr. Rider also cast second ballots in New York through an absentee ballot. Mr. Ketcik was also accused of voting through mail in Florida and casting a second, absentee ballet in Michigan.
The investigation into allegations of voter fraud by Mr. Ketcik, Ms. Halstead and Mr. Rider was initiated by the office of the Sumter County supervisor of elections, Bill Keen, according to arrest records. His office did not immediately respond to an inquiry for comment about the charges.
Republican leaders in several states, including Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, have pursued tougher rules around voting in the wake of the 2020 election. On Wednesday, Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for Mr. DeSantis, said, “Multiple voting is unlawful.”
She added, “It isn’t a crime to be registered to vote in more than one state, as long as you only vote in one.”
Ms. Pushaw said that in 2019, the state joined the Electronic Registration Information Center, a nonprofit group that helps states improve the accuracy of voter rolls. By joining the system, she said, state officials could crosscheck voter registration data to find duplicate registrations and outdated records.
“Though the system is not perfect, it does help ensure election integrity and deter potential fraud,” she said.