Three more inmates have been sentenced for election-related crimes stemming from a voter fraud investigation in Alachua County.
Arthur Lang, Dedrick Baldwin and Therris Conney pleaded no contest to various election charges brought by State Attorney Brian Kramer, court records show.
Conney, 33, and Baldwin, 47, received one-year jail sentences. Lang, 43, was given 18 months. The sentences will largely be served concurrently while they are incarcerated for other, unrelated charges, though one inmate’s sentence has been extended due to the new conviction.
The three men are among the 10 charged by the state attorney’s office for election-related crimes. Each registered to vote or cast a ballot for the 2020 general election following a voter drive held by the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office that occurred at the county jail after the passage of Amendment 4.
In June, Daniel Dion Roberts, 48, was the first inmate to be sentenced. He was given three years, to be served concurrently with his existing sentence.
The voter fraud investigation stems from a series of complaints from Mark Glaeser, a Gainesville database researcher and programmer, who says he found thousands of people across the state who registered or voted illegally in 2020. In Alachua County, Glaeser estimates he found about 100 people who voted illegally, 34 of whom were inmates.
At least 10 of those individuals named by Glaeser had prior felony convictions and registered to vote and/or voted while incarcerated at the Alachua County Jail in July 2020 and were charged by Kramer’s office.
Glaeser also sent a list of sex offenders who registered to vote, a claim Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton says she is now investigating.
Amendment 4, which took effect in 2019, was approved 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.
Some say the additional charges are unfair to the inmates, given that the state has no system to check whether people have outstanding fines or court costs or to know whether they would qualify as a voter.
Lang, who is currently serving four years for credit card fraud, theft and drug charges, had his release date extended 10 months due to the new charges.
He was charged with two counts of providing false voter registration information and one count of illegally voting. He is now scheduled to be released on Nov. 30, 2023.
Baldwin and Conney each were given 364 days for providing false voter registration information and illegally voting. Each is being credited with about 40 days of time served and will serve time for the new charges concurrently with their existing sentences.
Attorneys for each inmate could not be reached for comment.
The results for at least six others inmates are expected to come down in the coming weeks or months.
‘There was no malicious intent’
At least one inmate argues that he is being unfairly prosecuted for a simple mistake and for not understanding that his rights weren’t restored.
Kelvin Bolton, 55, wrote The Gainesville Sun a letter from jail saying he would never knowingly jeopardize his release date or committed the crimes.
“I would first like to say that there was no malicious intent when I registered to vote and voted,” he wrote. “Had I fully understood the laws at that time I would have never done so.”
Bolton goes on to say that he registered for the jail’s voting seminars held by the county’s Supervisor of Elections Office to become educated. He thought he was legally able to register and vote, as an elections worker was present to inform inmates of their rights.
An investigation from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement cleared the supervisor’s office of any wrongdoing, though it rebuked employees for going into an environment where convicted felons of major crimes may not have fully understood the rules or how they related to their own situations.
A guard who accompanied the worker during the visit, however, stated that inmates were told to consult an attorney if unsure of their situation.
Bolton, who has been charged with providing false voter registration information and two counts of illegal voting, is currently serving 2.5 years for theft and simple battery.
In May, despite charging the inmates, State Attorney Kramer’s office announced it was launching a voter information campaign dubbed the “V8th Program” to help convicted felons figure out whether they are able to vote.
They said they hope the initiative will help curb voter fraud, locally, due to the back-and-forth changes of Amendment 4.
“The purpose of this program is to make sure that people have a way of knowing ‘Is my sentence complete to the point where I am eligible to vote again,’” Kramer said during a May press conference.