TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa Bay area elections supervisor is sounding the alarm about suspected wide-spread fraud in the push to expand gambling in Florida.
Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus says her office is inundated with likely phony petitions for a proposed constitutional amendment. As 8 On Your Side found out, it could have a ripple effect on other ballot initiatives in November.
“This is unacceptable. This should not be a part of our process,” Marcus said. “I took a batch of a hundred, I wanted to go through them personally, and not a single one of these was valid.”
Marcus says her office is flagging hundreds of the likely phony petitions for a proposed amendment to expand casino gaming. The signed green forms are supposed to reflect the will of real voters, supporting a change to our state’s constitution.
But Marcus says it appears a group of criminal petition gatherers are forging signatures.
According to a state memo, this is occurring in at least six counties in Florida.
“These are not the voices of our voters,” Marcus said. “What’s happening is you potentially have a person creating people and filling out forms and pretending as though they’re voters.”
Marcus has brought in extra help. Her team has been working overtime to approve valid petitions by the legal deadline of Feb. 1, 2022.
She says she’s doing everything possible to avoid a ripple effect on other ballot initiatives in November.
“Those voters who did it properly, those petition groups that did it properly, are put back on the back burner because going through a petition that isn’t valid takes longer,” said Marcus.
Right now, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement along with local prosecutors are investigating. But could more be done to immediately stop these alleged criminals?
The answer is yes.
Last month, in a three-page memo, Secretary of State Laurel Lee’s office told Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office, “it may be appropriate and beneficial to voters… to prohibit the circulators at issue from continuing to circulate petitions and committing additional fraudulent acts against voters.”
But right now, the circulators at issue are still allowed to work. While AG Moody has the power, via an injunction, to prevent this, she hasn’t utilized it, yet.
8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi contacted the AG’s Office for answers. A spokeswoman released the following statement:
“The Attorney General’s Office continues to meet with the Department of State and will continue to assess all available remedies under law. This matter has been referred to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for investigation. For more information, please contact FDLE. Once their review is complete, the Office of Statewide Prosecution will review their findings.”
If you have a story for Mahsa to investigate, please send an email to MSaeidi@WFLA.com.