Florida student accused of rigging homecoming queen vote could face 16-year sentence

PENSACOLA, Fla. – A Florida high school student accused of rigging her school's election will be charged as an adult.

Emily Grover and her mother, Laura Carroll, assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School, were arrested in March after authorities said the duo used Carroll's special access to the district's student data system to cast hundreds of fraudulent votes for Grover in the homecoming queen election at Tate High School.

Grover was arrested when she was 17 years old. She turned 18 on April 16.

"This is not unusual with young people of that age," said assistant state attorney John Molchan. "Juvenile (court) cannot do anything or supervise them after they become 18. And so it just makes better sense to move them into adult court where they can be supervised effectively."

While Grover will be charged as an adult, the court still has the ability to impose juvenile sanctions.

March 16: Florida assistant principal, daughter arrested in homecoming queen vote scandal

Carroll remains free on a $6,000 bond, and Grover is free on $2,000 bond. Prosecutors said the mother and daughter each face a maximum 16-year sentence.

Mugshot of Emily Rose Grover.
Mugshot of Emily Rose Grover.

Both Grover and Carroll's next court date is May 14, for their arraignment.

They are each charged with:

  • Offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices (third-degree felony);

  • Unlawful use of a two-way communications device (third-degree felony);

  • Criminal use of personally identifiable information (third-degree felony);

  • Conspiracy to commit these offenses (first-degree misdemeanor).

In October, the Escambia County School District's election software application flagged hundreds of votes in the homecoming election as fraudulent, causing the district to contact the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. An investigation revealed the two ultimately cast 246 fraudulent votes across two devices, according to authorities.

At about the same time, the district's student council coordinator was notified that Grover had allegedly talked about using her mom's FOCUS account with districtwide access to cast votes, according to arrest warrants. FOCUS is the student data system where parents, teachers and students can access information like grades and health records.

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The investigation also found that Grover openly used her mother's account to access other students' profiles. Law enforcement officials collected nine statements from students and a teacher who said they either heard Grover talking about accessing the account or watched her log on to it over the course of four years.

FDLE spokeswoman Jessica Cary said the investigation into that matter was ongoing.

Grover was ultimately expelled from Tate High School, according to her arrest warrant. Carroll was suspended from her position after her arrest. School officials have declined to say whether they have since terminated Carroll, citing the ongoing court case.

District employee firings must go before the school board. However, when that occurs, employees are referenced by ID numbers, not their names.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Florida homecoming queen to be charged as adult in election scandal