3 residents of The Villages arrested for casting multiple votes in 2020 election

Few Central Floridians have faced similar charges over past two decades, records show

SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. – Three residents of The Villages have recently been arrested as part of an ongoing investigation into voter fraud, court records show.

Jay Ketcik, Joan Halstead and John Rider are each charged with casting more than one ballot in an election, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

The probe into the allegations of voting irregularities was initiated by the office of Sumter County Supervisor of Elections Bill Keen, according to prosecutors. Keen declined to comment about the cases, citing the ongoing investigation.

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Ketcik, 63, is accused of voting by mail in Florida in October 2020 while also casting an absentee ballot in his original home state of Michigan, court records show.

Halstead, 71, voted in-person in Florida but also cast an absentee ballot in New York, prosecutors allege.

Ketcik and Halstead turned themselves in to the Sumter County jail on outstanding warrants, court records show.

Rider, 61, was arrested by Brevard County deputies at the Royal Caribbean cruise ship terminal at Port Canaveral on Dec. 3, according to court records. Details of the accusations against him were not immediately available, but prosecutors indicated he also cast ballots both out-of-state and in Florida.

Ketcik, Halstead and Rider could not be immediately reached for comment. There is no indication from court records that they know each other.

Court records also do not reveal which candidates they cast votes for in the 2020 general election.

All three were registered as Republicans in Florida at the time of the election, voter registration records show.

Rider’s voter registration appears to have been changed to No Party Affiliation around the time of his arrest, state records indicate.

Facebook pages that appear to belong to Ketcik and Halstead contain several posts expressing support for former president Donald Trump.

“Multiple voting is unlawful,” said Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Governor Ron DeSantis. “It isn’t a crime to be registered to vote in more than one state, as long as you only vote in one.”

Pushaw noted that in 2019 Florida joined the Electronic Registration Information Center, a nonprofit organization that helps states improve the accuracy of voter rolls.

“By joining ERIC, Florida gained the ability to crosscheck voter registration data with 30 other member states in order to identify duplicate registrations and outdated records from voters who have moved or passed away, leading to cleaner and more accurate voter registration rolls,” Pushaw said. “Though the system is not perfect, it does help ensure election integrity and deter potential fraud.”

DeSantis is proposing a new state office to investigate election fraud.

Florida’s Secretary of State recently established a new elections integrity webpage where citizens can report voter fraud.

Despite the recent arrests in Sumter County, very few Central Floridians have been prosecuted for casting multiple ballots, a News 6 review of court data reveals.

Between 2000 and 2020 there were no prosecutions for that statute in Brevard, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties, court data indicates.

Prosecutors in Volusia and Orange counties filed charges in only two cases during that same two-decade period.

In 2017, Alba Esperanza Fernandez was sentenced to four years of supervised probation after pleading no contest to submitting false voter registration information and casting multiple ballots in Volusia County under two different names.

That same year, prosecutors dropped charges against an Orange County woman accused of voting in Florida and North Carolina after the defendant entered a pretrial diversion program, court records show.

Historical court data for other Central Florida counties was not immediately available.


About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades. Mike joined News 6 just as Florida officials began counting hanging chads in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. Since then, he has covered some of the biggest news events in Central Florida.