UPDATE: Anonymous email prompted voter fraud arrests in The Villages

Jay Ketcik, Joan Halstead and John Rider all face felony charge

THE VILLAGES, Fla. – An anonymous email sent to Florida’s secretary of state led to the arrests of at least three voters accused of casting multiple ballots in the 2020 general election, newly released records show.

The documents, produced by the office of State Attorney Bill Gladson, also reveal how investigators used signed voter records to confirm the anonymous tip.

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

All three defendants, who were registered as Republicans at the time of the election, have pleaded not guilty. Their attorneys did not immediately respond to emails from News 6 seeking comment.

Prior to his arrest, Ketcik told an investigator that one of his ballots may have been mailed “by mistake” around the time he moved to Florida, according to a newly released audio recording of the interview.

At least one additional Sumter County resident has been investigated for a similar crime but has not been charged or arrested, records show.

Investigation launched

In early May, a self-described “citizen election integrity analyst” sent an anonymous email addressed to elections officials in Michigan and Florida’s Division of Elections, which is overseen by Secretary of State Laurel Lee.

“Hello Florida and Michigan!” the email stated. “I was looking at voter data between your two states and I noticed a couple records that seem similar.”

The email, sent by someone with the username “Totes Legit Votes,” listed the names and addresses of more than a dozen voters registered in both Florida and Michigan who appeared to have multiple ballots cast under their names in the 2020 election.

“I obtained voter rolls from states I was legally eligible to receive from and that would fit within my hobbyist budget of a couple hundred dollars,” the unidentified tipster told News 6 in response to questions sent to the email address printed in court records.

“I believe that if hundreds of people sign sworn affidavits that they saw election irregularities, people should at least try to check into it,” the tipster said. “You can’t claim ‘the system is working’ if random internet people have to find the violations for you”.

The tipster, who claims to have reported more than 800 instances of potential voting irregularities in 14 states, reportedly does not bother tracking cases to find out if anyone was later criminally prosecuted.

“Just because a person is shown as having voted twice doesn’t mean that person voted twice,” the tipster told News 6, suggesting some cases may involve stolen ballots. “It does mean ‘the system’ can’t prevent it ahead of time or detect it as it happens.”

Less than a half hour after Florida’s Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews received the anonymous email, records show she forwarded it to nearly a dozen county elections supervisors, including Sumter County Supervisor of Elections Bill Keen.

“We have not vetted the information nor can attest to the accuracy of the information provided,” wrote Matthews, who indicated she had received separate emails alleging double voting in other states.

A spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment, so it is unclear how many Floridians might be prosecuted based on information provided in the anonymous email.

Ketcik, Halstead and Rider were identified through the anonymous email complaints, according to a letter written by an attorney representing Keen’s office.

Ketcik claims ballot was mailed ‘by mistake’

In early October, Ketcik and his wife voluntarily agreed to meet with Dan Marshall, an investigator with the State Attorney’s Office.

“I did not willfully vote twice in the same election,” said Ketcik, after learning of the allegations against him. “My intent was to be a Florida resident and vote in Florida. I had no intention of voting in Michigan.”

Ketcik, who sold his Michigan home in July 2020 before moving to Florida, admitted to filling out a Michigan absentee ballot but denied submitting it.

“I did not mail that back to Michigan,” said Ketcik. “If it got mailed, I have no idea how. In the move, we’re moving stuff. We’re sending bills back and forth.”

Ketcik, who told the investigator that he worked for more than 30 years as an administrator in Michigan’s Department of Corrections, claimed the Michigan ballot “got mailed by mistake.”

Ketick signed and dated the Michigan ballot envelope on September 30, more than two months after selling his Michigan home, according to a copy of the envelope obtained by prosecutors.

The envelope containing the Michigan ballot was postmarked in Orlando on October 3, investigators said.

The following day, Ketcik signed and dated a Florida vote-by-mail ballot envelope, records show. The ballot’s envelope was postmarked in Orlando on October 10.

“I can show you voted in both states. I’m pretty confident,” said Marshall, who did not disclose the state’s evidence against Ketcik during the interview.

“I can’t dispute that,” replied Ketcik. “But I had no intent.”

Ketcik left the state attorney’s office after the interview but was later arrested on December 8. He was released on a $2,000 bond the same day, jail records show.

Halstead declined to be interviewed by Marshall prior to turning herself in November 29, court records show, and the investigator was unable to reach Rider by phone before he was arrested on a warrant December 3 at the Royal Caribbean cruise ship terminal in Port Canaveral. Both were released from custody on bond.

Signed voter records indicate Halstead and Rider cast ballots in both New York and Florida during the 2020 general election, documents released by the state attorney show.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.