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The Villages
Monday, July 25, 2022

Villagers file election fraud complaint with federal prosecutor after lack of action at state level

Two Villagers have taken an election fraud complaint to a federal prosecutor after lack of action at the state level.

Marsha Shearer and Martin Van Luven filed the complaint last week with the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa.

The complaint stems from the 2020 “fake” candidacies of Villagers Pete Wahl and Jerry Prince who filed to run as write-in candidates for the Sumter County Board of Commissioners.

Shearer originally filed a complaint with the state, however, the Florida Department of State and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement ultimately decided not to investigate the matter. In her recent letter to the U.S. attorney, Shearer said she and and Van Luven “don’t believe justice was served” in the “fake candidates” case.

Pete Wahl and Jerry Prince

“There is no indication that any interviews were conducted, any records reviewed or subpoenaed or, in fact, any action taken at all to determine whether voting fraud occurred. In essence, that is why we are pursuing the complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice,” Shearer wrote in a letter to the U.S. Attorney.

Prince, then-head of The Villages Republican Club, was trying to protect incumbent Commissioner Steve Printz, who was facing challenges from fellow Republican candidates Oren Miller and Daniel Myslakowski, both Villagers. Wahl, a former District Manager for The Villages, was doing likewise for incumbent Don Burgess, who faced GOP challenger Craig Estep. The purpose of the write-in candidacies was to block roughly 45,000 Democrats and Independents from casting ballots in the race. Thousands of voters changed their party preferences so they could participate in the county race, propelling Miller and Estep to victory. The next day, Wahl and Prince quietly withdrew their write-in candidacies.

That’s when Shearer, long known for her political activism, filed an election fraud complaint with the state.

Printz and Burgess were on the ropes due to a 25 percent tax increase unanimously approved in September 2019 by the commission. The tax increase was seen as a sweetheart deal for the Developer of The Villages.

At one point, Prince had promised to explain his write-in candidacy, but the forum at which Prince was to make his explanation was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It was never rescheduled.

Prince also directed a Republican endorsement for Printz, Burgess and fellow incumbent Al Butler. The endorsement was given despite the local Republicans’ bylaws which forbid such preferential treatment within party ranks. The incumbents each pocketed $5,000 donations from the local Republican organization. The endorsements and political contributions came in spite of the write-in candidacies.

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