The Alachua County Jail in Gainesville, Fla., on Wednesday, March 30, 2022. (Rachael Gregory/Fresh Take Florida)

Tenth person charged with voter fraud investigation over jailhouse registrations

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A 10th former jail inmate is facing felony voter fraud charges, accused of registering to vote and casting a ballot in the 2020 presidential election while owing unpaid court fees dating as far back as 1994.

The latest indictment follows an eight-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into voter registration efforts that has resulted in charges being filed against nine other former Alachua County inmates over fraudulent voting – at least eight of whom registered during registration drives organized by Alachua County’s Democratic elections supervisor, Kim A. Barton, in February and July 2020.

All current and former employees at the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office have been cleared of wrongdoing

Dedrick De’Ron Baldwin, 46, of Gainesville is the 10th felon charged. He registered to vote in February 2019 as a Democrat. He then updated his voter information in July 2020, the same month the supervisor of elections office organized a voter drive in the jail, according to voter records.

Baldwin voted by absentee ballots in the 2020 Democratic primary and the general election that year, according to voting records.

He is being charged twice over registering to vote while prosecutors said he was ineligible, and he was charged with two counts of illegally casting a ballot, according to court records. Submitting false voter registration and illegal voting are third-degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Baldwin was convicted of manslaughter and aggravated battery in August 2021. He is now serving a 12-year prison sentence, according to court records.

Baldwin was still awaiting trial in the manslaughter case when he voted. It was $494 in unpaid fines from burglary and weapons charges dating as far back as 1994 that would have made it illegal for Baldwin to register to vote twice and cast a ballot, court records showed.

Under Florida law and court rulings, most felons – except those convicted of murder or sexual offenses – can register and vote after they completed their prison terms and no longer owe any unpaid fines or court fees. It would have been permissible for jail inmates to register as voters at the time who were awaiting the outcomes of other criminal cases if their previous felony cases had already been wrapped up.

Baldwin is the fifth person to provide a firsthand account of the jailhouse voter registration drives.

“They told us that if we weren’t already convicted of our current crime then we were able to sign up and vote,” he wrote from prison. “They probably signed 65 or 70 people up that day, so I don’t understand how I can be charged with voter misconduct. All I was doing was what they told me I had a right to do.”

Three of those charged have said investigators visited them to ask about the election worker who helped them register.

In eight of the other cases, the felons registered on the same day an Alachua County elections official conducted a voter registration drive for inmates. The drives took place during dueling legal disputes following the passage of Amendment 4, which gave most felons the ability to restore their right to vote after completing their sentences and fully paying any owed legal fees.

Five of the inmates being charged, including Baldwin, said they were informed by a voting official that their felony history did not impede them from legally voting. All the inmates contacted said they were not aware of the charges until contacted by Fresh Take Florida, a news service operated by the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.

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This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporters can be reached at cilvento@freshtakeflorida.com and alugo2@freshtakeflorida.com.

About Carolina Ilvento

Carolina is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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