A second person accused of voter fraud while incarcerated at the Alachua County Jail in 2020 is back behind bars after being officially charged in the case in late March.
Leroy James Ross, 63, was booked Tuesday on two counts of providing false voter information and one count of election fraud.
Ross, who has eight prior felony convictions, had bail set by Judge James Colaw at $25,000 for each count, for a total of $75,000.
Ross is accused of providing false voter registration information on or about Feb. 19 and Feb. 28, as well as knowingly voting in an election between Oct. 19 and Nov. 3, 2020, even though he is not eligible to vote, according to a charging document filed with the Eighth Judicial Circuit by the State Attorney’s Office.
Ross was serving a 17-month sentence for cocaine possession when he took part in a voter registration drive at the jail put on by the Alachua Supervisor of Elections Office. State of Florida records show that Ross was released Sept. 12, 2021, in that case.
Nine other convicted felons have been charged with various election crimes related to the investigation, which stems from a series of complaints filed by a Gainesville database researcher and programmer who says he found thousands of people across the state who registered or voted illegally.
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A report released April 4 by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement cleared the Supervisor of Elections Office of any wrongdoing, but noted that the practice of mass registering of jail inmates “could compromise the integrity of the Florida Voter Registration System.”
Kelvin Bolton, 55, of Gainesville, was the first former inmate arrested on April 6 at the St. Francis House homeless shelter, court records show. He is being held at the Alachua County jail on a $30,000 bond on third-degree felony charges of perjury and fraud.
Amendment 4, which took effect in 2019, was passed by nearly two-thirds of Florida voters and was supposed to restore voting rights to people with felony convictions, except those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who had completed their sentences.
Republican lawmakers, however, passed a bill requiring that a convicted felon’s fees, court costs and restitution be paid before their voting rights are fully restored. The back-and-forth brought mass confusion for people who thought they had their rights restored.
Currently, the state has no one-stop system in place to flag those who attempt to register to vote by mistake before penalties are handed down.
While visiting Levy County last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis touted his new voter fraud task force that will start July 1 to investigate and prosecute election-related crimes, as well as increase penalties for those who register or vote illegally.
Asked by the Gainesville Sun how the initiative will help those who unknowingly register illegally to ensure they don’t get hit with more jail time, DeSantis said the unit will simply deter violations from happening.
The governor said he blames people registering inmates, though he also acknowledged election office workers aren’t investigators. He said the voter fraud unit provides an avenue for complaints that often go to an office of a state attorney, which may not see the cases as a high priority compared to those being prosecuted for murder and other major crimes.
“If people see here are the rules, let’s follow them, and if you don’t follow them there is going to be consequences,” he said. “Then I think most people are just going to want to follow the rules. I think when they know it’s the wild west, well that’s when I think people think they can do some things that are a little bit different.”The Republican-controlled state House and Senate approved the legislation in mostly party-line votes.