THE VILLAGES, Fla. (AP) — A man has been charged with forgery and fraud after authorities say he cast a ballot in Florida for his deceased father in the 2020 election, though the suspect says the charges were motivated by a local, internal GOP political rivalry between former President Donald Trump advocates and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis supporters.
Elections officials in Sumter County did not count the ballot because it was postmarked four days after the father died in mid-October 2020, according to a criminal complaint brought by William Keen, the Sumter County elections supervisor. An examination of the father’s ballot showed the signature on it resembled that of his son’s and not any of the father’s previous ballot signatures, the complaint said.
Robert Rivernider was arrested and charged last week with felony forgery of a public record and fraud, according to court documents. He has since been released from custody.
Reached by telephone Wednesday, Rivernider said he planned to plead not guilty. He blamed the charges on a local political rivalry between himself, an active Trump supporter, and local officials supporting DeSantis, who also is a candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. He pointed out that charges were filed almost three years after the election.
“There is a lot of politics that goes on here in Sumter County and they don’t like the fact that I don’t follow their system,” Rivernider said.
An email was sent to Keen seeking comment.
Rivernider lives near The Villages, a massive retirement community where at least four residents have been arrested since the 2020 election on voter fraud charges.
Last year, DeSantis and the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature created a law enforcement agency to investigate election crimes, despite there being little evidence of electoral malfeasance by voters in the Sunshine State. The unit’s first public actions were the arrests of 20 people for illegally voting in 2020. DeSantis has said the people were not eligible to vote under a 2018 constitutional amendment that restores voting rights to some felons because they had been convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.
Rivernider was convicted a decade ago in federal court in Connecticut of orchestrating a $20 million real estate flipping scheme and has still been paying restitution to dozens of victims. In Florida, felons must pay all fines, restitution and legal fees before they can regain their right to vote.