The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has taken over the investigation of the allegations of the illegal submittals of fraudulent signatures on the petitions in favor of gambling that have been presented to election office supervisors in Northwest Florida and the state.
The gatherers of petition signatures, who have turned in fraudulent signatures to the administration, claim to be representing Florida Voters in Charge, a group lobbying in favor of casino gambling expansion. As CasinoGamesPro previously reported, lawyers representing the group have recently filed a lawsuit in Leon County, alleging that the Seminole Tribe of Florida was involved in a fraudulent scheme aimed at willingly submitting incorrect petitions to election office supervisors.
Supervisors of Elections in Bay, Escambia, Okaloosa and Walton Counties have reported what they consider to be forged signatures on petitions that were previously tabled by Florida Voters in Charge.
LuJuana Rinker, who occupies the position of chief deputy in the Supervisor of Elections Office in Walton County, confirmed that she had turned in no less than 50 invalid signatures to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. She revealed that among the signatures in question was the signature of a woman who she personally knew until her death in 2015. Ms. Rinker further noted that was not the only case of a signature of a deceased person included in the petitions. Apart from that, there were another 10 or 11 voters who actually had registrations in Tallahassee and were given random addresses in Freeport.
Supervisors of Counties’ Election Offices Report Suspicious Signatures Received in Petitions
Under the current legislation of the state, petition circulators are required to witness each signature they gather under penalty of giving false claims under oath. As revealed by Ms. Rinker she reported the names of no less than 4 petition circulators who had presented forms featuring suspicious signatures.
Paul Lux, the Supervisor of Elections in Okaloosa County, revealed that, in January 2022, his office reported 9 suspicious petitions, as well as the name of 1 petition circulator.
Last month, David Stafford, who supervises the elections in Escambia County, shared that about 12 fraudulent signatures had been identified by his office.
Mark Anderson, Supervisor of Elections in Bay County, was unwilling to reveal the exact number of suspicious signatures that had been received by his office but confirmed that a certain batch would be subject to further investigation.
Tappie Villane, who supervises the elections in the County of Santa Rosa, had not revealed receiving any invalid signatures but confirmed that criminal investigators had already contacted her office.
As reported by CasinoGamesPro, the group Florida Voters in Charge was established in May 2021 to gather local voters’ signatures in support of a proposed constitutional amendment seeking to allow card rooms across the state to transform into Las Vegas-style casinos. The initiative, which ended on February 1st, was sponsored by contributions amounting to more than $51 million, with the casino giant Las Vegas Sands having made most of the donations.
Florida Voters in Charge Sues Seminole Tribe’s Agents over Allegedly Trying to Undermine Signature-Gathering Activity
At the beginning of December 2021, election office supervisors in 6 counties outside the Panhandle –
Bradford, Brevard, Duval, Gulf, Marion, and Pinellas – addressed the Office of the Secretary of State to complain they had received alleged fraudulent petitions regarding the aforementioned constitutional amendment from signature collectors operating on behalf of Florida Voters in Charge.
In a letter referring to the complaint filed to the Attorney General’s Office, more than 1,800 falsified petitions were identified by the Secretary of State’s counsel in just three of the counties involved in the constitutional amendment effort. The names of 13 individuals who had submitted petitions suspected as fraudulent were included in the letter sent by the Secretary of State to the Office of State’s Attorney General. The serious nature of the allegations was confirmed by John Guard, the Chief Deputy Attorney General, who also noted that they require full criminal investigation.
Then, the Office of the Attorney General ordered the statewide prosecutor to join forces with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in order to hold an investigation and coordinate potential criminal filings. As confirmed by the spokesperson of the Department, Gretyl Plessinger, the investigation that is being held by the state agency is still active.
As previously reported, in December, Florida Voters in Charge started legal action in Leon County against 4 businesses or political committees and 3 individuals, alleging that the Seminole Tribe of Florida had funded all of them to undermine the pro-gambling effort which, if successful, could seriously impact the casino profits of the tribe. The lobbyist group later added the Office of Secretary of State to the list of entities taken to court. The lawsuit claims that the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s agents had interfered with contractual and business relationships in order to affect the signature-gathering activity.