Florida AG asked to investigate suspected fraudulent casino petitions

State elections offices, including Duval County, report receiving numerous fraudulent petition forms

Election officials across the state are reporting thousands of potentially fraudulent petitions to expand casino gaming in Florida. They're calling on Florida's Attorney General to investigate.

TALLAHASSEE – A letter addressed to Florida’s deputy attorney general requests assistance in investigating claims of elections supervisors from across the state — including Duval County — who say they’ve been sent numerous fraudulent petition forms in support of a constitutional amendment to expand casino gaming.

The letter, dated Dec. 3 from the office of Secretary of State Laurel Lee, claims they’ve received information from six elections offices — Duval, Gulf, Pinellas, Marion, Brevard and Bradford counties — about fraudulent constitutional initiative petitions. It states that some of the counties are working with their state attorney’s offices for local investigation and prosecution.

On Oct. 14 in Duval, the letter reads, the supervisor of elections office provided copies of petition forms that were believed to be fraudulent. An email from the county’s director of voter registration administration notes that it was only a “wee” sampling of petitions in Duval and that their office has given over 1,200 petitions with similar issues to the state attorney’s office.

Chief Elections Officer Robert Phillips, with the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office, said his office has gone through more than 211,000 petitions and more than 150,000 have been deemed invalid for a variety of reasons.

“Staff will look and verify the signature, the date of birth, the name of the voter. If the signature matches, then the petition is valid,” Phillips said. “You’re looking at a real large number that are invalid, and these are the ones whenever — if law enforcement chooses to investigate it, we will have to turn over to them.”

Phillips said his office has about 40,000 more petitions to go through before the end of the month.

A statement from the Fourth District State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville reads: “I can confirm our office has received a number of petitions from our local elections office and we are investigating the matter.”

The other counties that provided examples of the suspected fraudulent petitions noted what appeared to be forged signatures as well as names of deceased voters.

Notably, Marion County Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox states that he found both his and his wife’s signatures forged on petitions. The dates of the examples included in the letter range from Oct. 14 to Dec. 1.

As reported by the Miami Herald, the petition drive is financed by Las Vegas Sands. Sheldon Adelson, its late owner, was a megadonor to Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican Party, and Las Vegas Sands has spent over $49 million trying to get an amendment on the ballot in November that would allow Florida card rooms to be converted to Las Vegas-style casinos.

About the Authors:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.