LVS Casino petition: Florida woman charged with voter fraud

Maria Guadalupe Bautista has been charged with voter fraud in Florida in connection with LVS's 2021 campaign to legalize gambling at some casinos.

Apr 8, 2024
2 min read
Florida's 2021 Voter Accountability movement is facing strong opposition from the Seminole Tribe,
Florida's 2021 Voter Accountability movement is facing strong opposition from the Seminole Tribe, which controls casino gambling in the state. Many of the petitions in the failed campaign backed by LVS turned out to be fraudulent. (LVS Company)


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LVS Casino petition: Florida woman charged with voter fraud

An Ocala, Florida, woman has been arrested and charged with voter fraud related to Las Vegas Sands Corp.'s 2021 campaign. Accused of allowing restrictions on casino gambling in the state.

Maria Guadalupe Bautista, 24, faces 16 counts of fraudulent use of personally identifiable information, according to a statement from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

In 2021, LVS committed an unprecedented $49.5 million to a political action committee (PAC) called Florida Voter Leaders (FVC). The PAC is pushing an initiative on the 2022 ballot asking voters to amend the state constitution to allow gaming halls in North Florida to be converted into casinos.

In theory, this could allow LVS and other bookmakers to acquire pari-mutuel card rooms in or around Jacksonville and convert them into Las Vegas-style casino resorts.

The event was strongly opposed by Florida's Seminole Tribe, which holds exclusive rights to casino gambling in the state. The tribe also spent tens of millions to fight back against the proposal.

Resurrection of the Dead

Ultimately, the FVC ballot initiative failed to garner the required number of signatures. But that was until election officials in several counties noticed an unprecedented number of invalid entries, some containing the names of deceased people.

A supervisor told the Northwest Florida Daily News she discovered the signature of a woman she had met at the church previously who had been dead for five years. Another person told the Miami Herald he discovered his name and his wife's on one of the petitions.

FDLE began investigating fraudulent petitions in November 2021 after Marion County Board of Elections staff discovered 767 suspicious applications. Bautista submitted 191 forms of alleged fraud.

Investigators found that 16 petitions submitted by Bautista contained forged signatures. Two of those were from people who died before filing, according to FDLE. Bautista was being held Tuesday at the Marion County Jail on $80,000 bail.

She is the second person to be charged with election fraud in connection with the incident, following the arrest in late May of Cassandra Belle, a 65-year-old St. Petersburg woman.

Accusations are flying

The campaign on both sides of the issue was unpleasant from the start. FVC claims the Seminoles used covert tactics to undermine their ballot initiatives, including "coordinated harassment and intimidation" of signature gatherers.

In a lawsuit later withdrawn, the PAC alleged that the Seminole-backed group knowingly submitted invalid signatures. The tribe is also accused of paying FVC signature gatherers to stop working on the campaign or even leave the state.

The Seminoles, meanwhile, accuse FVC of paying petitioners by signature rather than by the hour, which has been illegal in Florida since 2019.

At the time, both sides strenuously denied all accusations.

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