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Gambling petitions creating more work for Manatee County elections staff

There's a big push to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot about gambling, and it's potentially costing you before you vote.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Some elections supervisors say they are being sent thousands of fraudulent petitions about expanding casino gaming in the state. 

Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett told 10 Tampa Bay that fewer than half, approximately 41-percent, of the more than 37,000 petitions turned into his office are actually legit. 

The forms are both in support of and against a constitutional amendment to expand casino gaming in Florida. Bennett says that verifying if the forms are phony or not is costing the county and you money.

“It's probably costing us now somewhere in the neighborhood of a dollar apiece to dollar fifty to process these because of the excess overtime that we're in. They're wearing my staff down. We're having to kick other things down the road that we would normally be doing this time of year, and it's all because of bad petitions,” Bennett said.  

It’s taking staff double the time to process a bad petition. The office staff is having to work overtime and on weekends to go through the petitions by their February deadline. While they are collecting petitions for other initiatives, those related to gambling are the majority of what’s coming into their office.

Sarasota had some signature discrepancies that they sent to the Division of Elections. About 30 were then forwarded on to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. 

Gretl Plessinger, a spokesperson for FDLE sent 10 Tampa Bay the following statement:

“FDLE is providing investigative assistance to the 5th Judicial Circuit and agents are receiving additional information from state attorneys and supervisors of elections throughout Florida. FDLE also received a referral from the Florida Attorney General on Jan. 13. Agents continue to gather and review the additional information coming into FDLE.”