Florida election supervisors are reporting more fraudulent petitions from an LVS-backed gambling expansion ballot initiative than any ever before seen in the state.
This prompted The Miami Herald, which broke the story, to question whether Florida is “in the midst of one of the largest cases of election-related fraud in recent history.”
One official charged with verifying signatures in Marion County, Wesley Wilcox, told the Herald that of the thousands of petitions dropped off at his office, as many as 80 percent were suspicious.
Wilcox says he has found countless signatures that are likely forged, including those of dead people. He also found his own faked signature and that of his wife.
LVS has poured an unprecedented amount of money –$49.5 million– invested into the initiative via a political action committee called “Florida Voters in Charge” (FVC).
It wants to ask voters to change the state constitution to allow pari-mutuel card rooms based at least 130 miles away from the Seminole reservation to become casinos. Theoretically, this could allow LVS to purchase a card room in or around the Jacksonville area that could later be converted into a full-fledged casino resort.
The Seminoles currently enjoy exclusivity on casino gaming in Florida and have also plowed millions into countering the LVS effort.
LVS has accused the tribe of pursuing underhand tactics, including “coordinated harassment and intimidation” in a bid to sabotage its campaign. It sued for an injunction last month.
In court, the Seminoles have accused contractors hired by FVC of paying petitioners per signature, rather than by the hour, which has been illegal in Florida since 2019.
FVC has denied this. But at least one former petition circulator the Herald spoke to confirmed the tactic was being used. Meanwhile, the Seminoles have produced an affidavit from a witness who says he would be paid $450,000 for every 25,000 petitions he submitted, up to $2.7 million.
Jim McKee, an attorney for FVC, said all of the campaigns’ contracts were compliant with Florida law. He also emphasized that state law requires the committee to submit every petition it receives. They are not allowed to screen them in any way.
The idea that our committee would purposely submit fraudulent petitions is ridiculous,” McKee told the Herald in a statement. “This would not help our effort in any way.”
“Every petition identifies the individual who collected it, and we would encourage law enforcement to investigate any petitions of concern,” he added.
Doomed to Fail?
FVC currently has 566,000 verified signatures of the 891,589 needed to make the ballot. That suggests the initiative is likely to fail, especially considering the number that is proving to be unverifiable. However, election officials will continue counting until February 1.
And meanwhile, some people could get into trouble, according to Wilcox.
“Considering the number of petitions people are dropping off, and how many are suspected fraudulent, some petition circulators could face serious jail time,” he said.
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