The Mystery Of Thousands Of Potentially Fraudulent Signatures For Florida Casino Expansion

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee. (Screenshot, YouTube/PBS NewsHour)

Thousands of signatures in support of expanding casino gaming in Florida are suspected of being fraudulent. 

In counties across the state, election officials have flagged suspicious petition signatures from a constitutional amendment drive financed by Las Vegas Sands, the casino company founded by the late Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson. Adelson’s wife Miriam now holds a majority stake in the company. 

The Miami Herald reported on the mass of suspect signatures Thursday, describing the situation as potentially “one of the largest cases of election-related fraud in recent history.” 

The paper flagged a December letter from Secretary of State Laurel Lee’s (R) office to the state attorney general’s office, alerting them to “fraudulent constitutional initiative petitions” received in six counties. 

Marion County elections supervisor Wesley Wilcox found his and his wife’s own “signatures” among the petition forms supporting casino expansion, the letter noted. Others were from dead voters. 

Las Vegas Sands has spent $49.5 million pushing the amendment, the Herald reported. An attorney for the committee receiving the casino group’s financial backing, Florida Voters in Charge, said it was “ridiculous” to think the committee would purposefully submit fraudulent ballots. 

“The idea that our committee would purposely submit fraudulent petitions is ridiculous,” attorney Jim McKee told the paper. He added: “Every petition identifies the individual who collected it and we would encourage law enforcement to investigate any petitions of concern.”

The deadline for the signature gathering operation was Dec. 30. Backers of the amendment needed 891,589 signatures to appear on voters’ 2022 ballots. According to a state website, Florida Voters in Charge has collected an unofficial tally of 590,609 signatures, though the Herald noted that supervisors have until the end of January to count signatures. 

Wilcox, the supervisor whose own signature was forged, told the Herald he’s sent letters to 900 voters in his county whose names were included on suspected fraudulent petition forms. According to the letter from the secretary of state’s office, the elections supervisor in Duval County has sent 1,200 suspected fraudulent petitions to the local prosecutor’s office.

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