Florida election officials sound alarm over fraudulent gambling petitions

Elections offices says they’ve received thousands of forged petitions

TAVARES, Fla. – Florida elections officials say it appears someone is forging signatures in an attempt to get a Florida gambling amendment on the ballot.

The first red flag was noticed in Lake County where the county’s supervisor of elections, Alan Hays, says thousands of people in and around the county may have received a letter notifying them a person may have had their signature forged.

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Out of nearly 20,000 gambling petitions, the Lake County Supervisor of Elections Office rejected 12,000.

“It is so unfortunate that people will resort to these measures,” Hayes said.

Hays said his office is handing over around 3,000 gambling petitions to the state attorney’s office for what may be fraudulent signatures.

Hays said other petitions that were rejected may have an incorrect address or no record of the person’s voter registration.

“All of it looks like it may have been from the same person, many of them done by the same hand... it’s an inordinate number, typically if 5% or 10% are rejected we wouldn’t think any of it, but this is a very large number,” said Hays.

Petition 21-16 is a measure that will allow voters to amend the state constitution to convert cardrooms into full casinos and is backed by Florida Voters in Charge.

We reached out to them for comment, but have not heard back.

In Marion County, the supervisor of elections says he’s seeing the same fraudulent petitions.

“A petition was submitted with my name and a recorded signature,” said Supervisor Wesley Wilcox.

Wilcox said his county is sending around 900 petitions for evidence. He warned a person could face felony charges for sending petitions with forged signatures. The Fifth Judicial Circuit District of the State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed they received complaints from all the counties they serve.

As the investigation gets underway, Wilcox said he’ll be there to help enforce the law.

“If they need a witness from a voter here I am,” Wilcox said.

Hays said there is no way one person can avoid having their signature forged which is why he is asking the Florida Legislature to do more.

“If the legislature will give us the protection of the voters’ record, their information, make it private, don’t make it available to the public,” said Hays.

Hays said the Florida Supervisors of Elections Association will be at the state capital next week urging lawmakers to implement more safeguards for voters.

If you haven’t been notified a fraudulent petition has been filed in your name officials say you are safe, but if you want to check, Hays said to make sure to call your local election office.

About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.