The Villages, a sprawling retirement community in Florida bigger than Manhattan, is facing some of its residents’ worst fears: voter fraud. As the Orlando Sentinal reports, a fourth resident has been arrested for allegedly casting multiple ballots during the 2020 election. A majority of Villagers voted for Donald Trump to be re-elected and likely buy into the “Big Lie” paranoia that Trump was robbed of his rightful place as president. Perhaps it’s time for Villagers to look within, since it appears as if some of the fraudsters accused of casting multiple ballots likely did so for Trump. Three of those who’ve been accused—Joan Halstead, Jay Ketcik, and John Rider—are very clearly Trump supporters. Halstead and Ketcik are registered Republicans. Though Rider has no party affiliation listed, his Facebook page appears to show multiple pro-Trump posts.
The latest person to be arrested, Charles Franklin Barnes, is registered unaffiliated in both the state of Florida and the state of Connecticut. The 64-year-old was arrested on Tuesday and faces one charge of fraud in casting more than one ballot during an election. He was released from Sumter County Jail after paying a $2,000 bond. Little information has been revealed about how authorities discovered Barnes’ alleged misdeeds. In the case of Halstead, Ketcik, and Rider, it was a mysterious tipster who called themselves “Totes Legit Votes” who alerted Florida’s Division of Elections. The anonymous tipster also emailed Michigan’s Bureau of Elections. “Hello Florida and Michigan!” the email began. “I was looking at voter data between your two states and I noticed a couple records that seem similar.”
Among the tipster’s list of dozens of names, Ketcik was found to have voted by mail in both Michigan and Florida. Ketcik told authorities that, though he indeed filled out a Michigan ballot, it was simply mailed by mistake. “I did not mail that back to Michigan. If it got mailed, I have no idea how. In the move, we’re moving stuff,” Ketcik explained. “We’re sending bills back and forth.” Halstead and Rider, whose names were among those listed by the tipster, appear to have voted in both New York and Florida. All three have pleaded not guilty. The Villages isn’t the only place election officials are homing in on when it comes to potential instances of voter fraud, though it’s certainly one of the most interesting.
Described at times as an adult Disneyland, the Villages is a massive retirement community that now has a footprint in three counties and offers up 50 golf courses, 100 recreation centers, 89 swimming pools, 11 dog parks, 14 grocery stores, thousands of social clubs, a polo field, and three distinct town squares with their own architectural themes. Villagers mostly get around using golf carts and have been known to engage in all sorts of vices, though the Village maintains a facade that’s been compared with The Stepford Wives. It was the subject of a Hulu documentary, Some Kind of Heaven that was released in 2020, and has maintained its notoriety with the occasional odd news story, including repeated coverage about the uptick of STDs in the community.
Officials aren’t content to simply look to the Villages for evidence of voter fraud and have instead set their sights on the numerous snowbirds who call Florida home for only part of the year. Many have homes in other states, as do all the Villagers accused of voter fraud. There’s nothing illegal about being registered to vote in more than one state, but casting multiple ballots is a felony crime in Florida. Those who are found guilty of doing so face penalties of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
Marion County Supervisors of Elections Wesley Wilcox told the South Florida Sun-Sentinal that he and his fellow supervisors are no-nonsense when it comes to voter fraud. “You commit fraud in the state of Florida, and we will do everything possible to catch and charge you. One of the benefits of charging these people is it’s a deterrent,” Wilcox told the paper. “It may take me a year to catch you, but I will catch you.”
Reprinted with permission from DailyKos