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J’can man charged with voter fraud in Florida

Published:Saturday | October 22, 2022 | 12:08 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer

A Jamaican man has been arrested by the Florida state election police in the United States and charged with voting illegally in two special elections in the Sunshine State.

The accused, Alfred Samuels, is reportedly living in the United States illegally and did not have a legal right to vote.

The state’s Election Crime Unit arrested Samuels, who investigators allege voted in Broward County.

Samuels is accused of voting in two Broward Special Elections this year, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). He reportedly registered to vote there in March 2021 under the alias ‘Alford Nelson’, allegedly using a counterfeit birth certificate from New York City, according to police.

Investigators say that Samuels, who goes by at least seven different aliases, previously served time in prison for 11 felonies, including cocaine possession, selling/purchasing drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, resisting arrest with violence and trafficking cocaine.

If convicted, Samuels could face five years in prison and a US$5,000 fine for two counts of voter fraud.

Samuels was arrested on Wednesday and booked into the Broward County Jail.

He was admitted into the United States in 1977 as a lawful permanent resident, but never applied for naturalisation and overstayed his original entry documents, according to FDLE.

The case, which emerged with just over two weeks before election day, blends two of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ major policy points: voter fraud and illegal immigration.

The arrest comes as fallout continues over the first arrests made this summer by the first-of-its-kind Election Crime Unit.

This week, body camera footage from some of the prior 20 arrests showed suspects who were confused and officers who were sympathetic to their confusion. The suspects registered to vote, were granted voter ID cards and voted in 2020 despite being prohibited from voting because of prior convictions for murder or sexual offences.

DeSantis had announced the initial arrests in a highly publicised address to the media in August.

Soon after, his administration came under fire for using the new police force he had requested from lawmakers to target felons who appeared to be victims of administrative errors. During this year’s Legislative Session, Democrats criticised the force as a voter intimidation tool, claims they reignited after the arrests, according to Florida political news.

The election police unit also works with the Department of State as a joint effort of the Office of Election Crimes and Security. Secretary of State Cord Byrd oversees that office, which was led by Director Pete Antonacci until his sudden death last month.

“The department will continue to work jointly with FDLE to investigate and hold accountable anyone who broke Florida’s elections laws,” Byrd said in a statement. “By holding these individuals accountable, we will make sure Florida’s elections remain secure and accurate.”