The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested a 24-year-old Ocala woman last week for multiple counts of election fraud.
According to FDLE, agents met with the Marion County Supervisor of Elections (SOE) in November of 2021 regarding a complaint of “widespread fraud.” SOE staff had identified a total of 767 petition forms that were suspected of being forged.
FDLE stated that a woman serving as a paid petition circulator, identified as Maria Guadalupe Bautista, had turned in 191 of the suspected fraudulent forms.
An investigation was conducted by FDLE, and agents confirmed that 16 of the petitions submitted by Bautista contained fraudulent signatures. According to FDLE, two of those petitions were for individuals who had passed away prior to the date on the signed forms.
On August 29, 2023, Bautista was arrested and transported to Marion County Jail where she is currently being held on $80,000 bond. She is facing felony charges for fraudulent use of personal identification information (16 counts).
Wesley Wilcox, the Supervisor of Elections for Maron County, released a statement following Bautista’s arrest: “Supervisors of Elections take fraud seriously and are committed to protecting your vote. Throughout the year, our staff verifies thousands of candidate and initiative petitions signed by Marion County voters and validates the signature on each petition.”
Bautista is scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, October 3, according to jail records. The case will be prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office, Fifth Judicial Circuit.