State investigators soon picked up the case and learned the issue was not a simple computer error, according to court documents. Rather, they said, a man in Naples, Fla., had illegally used the state system to falsely submit a change of address for DeSantis.
On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Anthony Steven Guevara, 20, and charged him with two third-degree felonies, including voter fraud.
The incident has raised new concerns about the security of Florida’s elections website, which crashed earlier this month on the last day for voter registration, inhibiting thousands of people from signing up in the battleground state.
But Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee (R) said such concerns are unfounded, telling the Associated Press that the state’s systems are “secure.”
“There is no evidence to suggest that this change was made through the Florida Department of State,” Lee said. “We commend the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on their swift action to bringing this malicious actor to justice. The situation was corrected immediately.”
DeSantis, who arrived at the Leon County Courthouse at about 2 p.m. on Monday, was able to cast his vote after sorting out the problem. He then enlisted the FDLE to investigate what had happened. With the help of the Leon County elections office, authorities tracked down an IP address that had entered the change. Authorities subpoenaed Comcast for the address, according to court documents.
On Tuesday, law enforcement obtained a search warrant for Guevara’s home in Naples. Guevara, who according to public records is registered as a Republican, allegedly admitted to the crime and said he changed the address to one that belonged to a YouTube personality. Court documents did not indicate a motive.
In Florida, voters need only their date of birth to change their addresses online through the Department of State’s website. Guevara told law enforcement that he found DeSantis’s birthday on his Wikipedia page.
Mark Earley, the supervisor of elections for Leon County, told the Tampa Bay Times that the state’s online system is convenient on purpose, citing the needs of college students who are constantly moving around the state.
“What is abnormal is for that change to be done fraudulently,'' he told the Times. “This is not a hard thing to do, but there are pretty severe penalties for doing this.''
Investigators said they found further evidence while going through Guevara’s browser history. Court records say they found searches for “Florida Governor,” “Florida my vote” and the Florida Department of State’s website.
Guevara told police that he also looked up voter information for several high-profile people, including Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Michael Jordan and LeBron James, according to court documents, but he changed only DeSantis’s address.
Guevara is charged with illegally altering voting records and accessing a computer without authorization, both third-degree felonies that carry prison sentences of up to five years. According to court records, Guevara was released Wednesday morning on $5,000 bond. It’s not clear from court records whether Guevara has an attorney.