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Pro-Casino groups drop their request for speedy relief in petition gathering lawsuit

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 5:44 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB ) - Groups backing a citizen initiative aimed at expanding casino gaming in Florida are no longer seeking immediate relief in a lawsuit that alleges vendors with ties to the Seminole Tribe are using illegal means to block the measure from making the ballot.

The backers of the initiative to expand casino gaming in Florida allege vendors hired by groups funded by the Seminole Tribe have been paying off petition gatherers to stop collecting signatures.

“Not to actually do any work for the defendants, but simply to agree to stop working for us,” said James McKee, an attorney representing the groups that filed suit.

They even claim some petition gatherers have been intimidated.

“Ripping clipboards out of their hands, grabbing stacks of petitions and running away with them, screaming at voters to keep them away from petition circulators,” said McKee.

The vendors argue they have done nothing wrong because, in a right-to-work state, petition gatherers have the right to choose their employer.

“My client has the right to hire people to amplify its voice and education in the community where they think that voters are being misled,” said attorney William Shepherd, who is representing the vendors named in the suit.

A hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, but the groups suing unexpectedly dropped their request for a temporary restraining order, just one day after a judge ruled the lawsuit could go forward.

RELATED STORY: Circuit Court judge allows petition gathering lawsuit to proceed

A statement put out by Cornerstone Solutions, one of the groups that have been sued, called the decision to no longer seek a restraining order, ‘no surprise.’

“We continue to do the right thing by Floridians while out-of-state companies are wasting Florida’s time and tax dollars with frivolous emergencies of their own making,” said Cornerstone Solutions President Rick Asnani.

We are told the decision came down to time and manpower.

The groups suing said they couldn’t afford to pull staff out of the field for lengthy depositions.

“The judge asked for us to bring our team out of the field for multiple days of depositions - which is counterproductive to our signature-gathering efforts,” said Florida Voters in Charge spokesperson Sarah Bascom.

And the groups pushing the initiative told us they intend to continue the legal battle to push back against the blocking efforts.

”We will continue to pursue our legal options to expose and seek damages from those that have intentionally and aggressively attempted to thwart the constitutional signature-gathering process,” said Bascom.

They also claim to be on track to make the 2022 ballot, despite only having validated roughly 255,000 of the nearly 900,000 required signatures as of mid-afternoon Monday.

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