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Inducement or just a party?

Friday, Oct 31, 2014 - Posted by Rich Miller

* As we’ve discussed before, state law is pretty clear about offering inducements to register or vote…

Sec. 29-1. Vote buying.

Any person who knowingly gives, lends or promises to give or lend any money or other valuable consideration to any other person to influence such other person to vote or to register to vote or to influence such other person to vote for or against any candidate or public question to be voted upon at any election shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony.

* So, was this rally illegal?…

* Before you answer, the rally was held just 89 feet from the county building, the only early voting location in Pike County. It’s almost right next door. The flier was sent to me by a Republican, by the way.

I called the number on the flier and the guy on the other end didn’t say much. I called and e-mailed the state’s attorney and left a message, but he hasn’t responded.

* I reached out to noted election law attorney Burt Odelson, and his response, in a nutshell, was yes, it’s illegal because it clicked all the legal switches.

* This is the only response I’ve received from the Pittsfield area…

Please find the Pike County Democrats response to your inquiry. On October 25th the Pike County Democrats held a Democrat rally. We were pleased with the turn out and we’re happy with the event. We had people at the event who had already voted, people who who planned to vote later, and people who were voting on election day. Everyone was welcome at the event. Thank you for your interest in the pike County Democrats.

Rick Toumbs

* But as usual with these things, another election law attorney I consulted, a Democrat, said it could go either way…

It can be argued that it is a rally and that people are eligible for a prize for going to the rally and not for voting. Or one could argue that it is for voting.

But the mailer says door prizes which would appear to make them attendance prizes.

He also hinted that he doubted the state’s attorney would do anything, since he’s on the flier.

Your thoughts?

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  1. - anon - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:32 pm:

    Just another dem inducement. And people wonder why there will be poll watchers??????

  2. - admin - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:35 pm:

    When Rauner gives free hot dogs away is it buying a vote?

  3. - 47th Ward - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:37 pm:

    So an open bar at an election night party is illegal too? How far down this road do we want to go?

    “There will be no fun of any kind!”

    Vernon Wormer, Dean, Faber College.

  4. - Bobbysox - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:40 pm:

    Rauner giving away hot dogs with ketchup is a paid discouragement from voting. Is that illegal?

  5. - OneMan - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:41 pm:

    So an open bar at an election night party is illegal too?

    Part of the reason the open bar does not open until after the polls close.

    Also the problem wouldn’t be the coffee, it would be the gift cards..

  6. - Jocko - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:43 pm:

    ==When Rauner gives free hot dogs away is it buying a vote?==

    Not if they’re ketchup only.


  7. - VM - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:44 pm:

    Nowhere on the flyer does it say that you have to vote.

    From the flyer, it appears to be a GOTV rally, at which you can supply food and door prizes.

    I would also suggest that there are First Amendment concerns in making this sort of activity illegal. If we start interpreting the prohibition on solicitation of votes to include an activity like this, I think a federal judge might very well say that the law violates the First Amendment.

    As a non-legal, practical matter: there is nothing wrong with this sort of thing as long as it’s made pretty clear that you don’t have to vote, let alone vote a certain way, to participate. I wish more businesses, organizations, and even political committees would encourage turnout.

  8. - DS Politico - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:45 pm:

    These two candidates should be ashamed. They were 89 feet from the polling place and giving away gift cards. The flyer clearly states “Democrat Voting Rally” and promises “Door Prizes.” Shameful.

  9. - Mokenavince - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:45 pm:

    I see nothing wrong with it. Just hustling votes.

  10. - Team Sleep - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:46 pm:

    This is AG Madigan’s time to finally dust off that corruption-fighting/busting promise from 12 years ago.

  11. - Peoria Guy - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:46 pm:

    Crosses the line, methinks.

  12. - Jeepster - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:48 pm:

    What’s wrong with encouraging people to vote?

  13. - DS Politico - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:51 pm:

    Nothing. It is when you buy their vote that a problem occurs.

  14. - Ron Burgundy - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:52 pm:

    It’s a close case. One that would be clearer if the flier actually encouraged people to vote while they were there.

  15. - West Side the Best Side - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:52 pm:

    Democrat or Democratic Voting Rally? I pop my cork when “Democrat Party” is used by, let us say Tea Partiers, for example. Are the political rules of grammar different Downstate?

  16. - Wordslinger - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:52 pm:

    Is the word “voting” wasn’t in the flyer, would there be an issue?

    I’ve seen all sorts of junk given away at pre-election rallies. Honestly didn’t know it was an issue.

  17. - Schock Girl - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:55 pm:

    First of all what the heck just people, prizes and coffee ? no free pony rides or other Dems walking in !
    Second imagine if a state Republican candidates did this ? It would be everywhere in a matter of minutes.
    This isn’t a 1st amendment thing it’s just a hustling votes thing of which nobody in Illinois should be shocked at.

  18. - anon - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:57 pm:

    This little inducement is more flagrant than the FB inducement. Free food, free drink, door prizes!!!

  19. - Anonymous - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 2:59 pm:

    As long as receiving any of those things is not conditioned on voting (or not) or promising to vote (or not) it’s 100% legal.

    I see no such condition

  20. - crazybleedingheart - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:00 pm:

    The Hairston prizes required a ballot receipt. This doesn’t.

    It’s like any other “no purchase necessary to win” sweepstakes. It’s not a trade for your burger money, you can write to McDonald’s and get those Monopoly pieces by mail.

    Nobody does that? Doesn’t matter. Not illegal.

  21. - ChrisB - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:00 pm:


    You must have missed the part where is says, “Bring a friend, grab a cup of coffee, and vote.”

  22. - Norseman - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:00 pm:

    Rich, if you ask 3 attorneys, you’ll get 4 opinions.

  23. - Jeepster - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:02 pm:

    DS Politico: “Nothing. It is when you buy their vote that a problem occurs.” There’s no voting buying here at at all. It’s a rally around election time encouraging people to vote. It might be sponsored by Democrats but it doesn’t say that you need to vote Democratic or even vote to attend.

  24. - circularfiringsquad - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:04 pm:

    And when Mitt plunks down $1 million at that tiny credit union, offers “loans” and refuses to turn over records what do we call that? Trick or Treat?

  25. - Jeepster - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:07 pm:

    The folks on here arguing that this rally is illegal will also see no problem with Rick Perry’s criminal actions in coercing a state’s attorney by withholding funds or Scott Walker’s illegal coordination efforts with the Koch Brothers. Their version of events is driven solely by politics and not reality.

  26. - Not Quite - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:09 pm:

    I’ve been a lawyer for more than 20 years and in my opinion this does not violate the statute. It’s close, but not quite. The law states, “Any person who knowingly gives, lends or promises to give or lend any money or other valuable consideration to any other person to influence such other person to vote or to register to vote or to influence such other person to vote for or against any candidate….” There is certainly reasonable doubt whether an inducement was offered to register to vote or to influence a vote for or against someone. It’s close on the inducement to get someone to vote, but I think any defense attorney could show reasonable doubt there too. It’s not like people were being rewarded for voting by getting food and beer only if they produced proof they’d voted. Nor was it a requirement for receiving the food and drinks that they promise to vote that day. And it’s not like rides or escorts were being offered to the polling places after ralliers filled their stomachs with food and beer. This is awfully close for comfort, though, especially for a State’s Attorney candidate.

  27. - train111 - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:09 pm:

    Norseman–Not only would you get 4 opinions out of 3 attorneys–but each one would bill you $250 for the 15 minutes of effort they put into coming up with their opinion.

  28. - Gator - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:11 pm:

    If you recall, Starbucks was giving free coffee to people who had voted nationwide years ago. They got in trouble in Illinois and pulled the plug around noon after they were accused of violating the same law.

    I understand why a law like this exists. However, I also understand why companies like Starbucks, and even other campaigns, are creating incentives for people to vote.

  29. - Anonymous - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:12 pm:

    The only thing dumber than calling this rally illegal is calling Rick Perry’s exercise of his constitutional right to veto illegal. Mark my word, just like Duke Lacrosse, someone in that Austin prosecutors office will be disbarred before it’s all said and done

  30. - Responsa - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:14 pm:

    Paging Wordslinger–

    The flier says Democrat voting rally not Democratic voting rally.

  31. - WhoElse - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:20 pm:

    The fun fact most readers don’t know is that these 2 are father and son. Only in Pike County.

  32. - Norseman - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:31 pm:

    Jeepster, I don’t know enough about the facts and election law to declare whether the event was illegal or not. I do believe it is very close to crossing the line and should be looked at by the General Assembly.

    I will strongly disagree with your assertion that Rick Perry’s actions were criminal. I don’t like the man, think he’s another Tea Party dope (to use Willy’s favorite term) and would never vote for him, but I think it’s criminal that he was charged with a crime for exercising his powers as Governor. If you think he is guilty of a crime, Quinn needs to go to jail arm in arm with the guy for his action in vetoing legislative salaries.

  33. - Hoping for Rational Thought - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:39 pm:

    Line crossed. Intent seems pretty clear. lawyers can always find a way to muddy it up

  34. - pundent - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:40 pm:

    I suspect that the organizers had some sense of where the line is drawn here and decided to purposely dance close to it. It’s also possible that they knew that there could be conflicting opinions on whether or not this was legal but no one would likely be willing to roll the dice and say it wasn’t.

    With regards to the defense of Rick Perry, I’d suggest reading the indictment and then offering up an opinion. Ultimately that one will be up to a jury, but the grand jury was certainly persuaded enough to keep it moving forward.

  35. - Anonymous - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 3:54 pm:

    Well, if it is considered illegal then politicians handing out candy, coolie cups, drinking cups and other items during a parade while asking for your vote should be as well.

  36. - WhoElse - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 4:10 pm:

    Buying votes. Thanks Josh Evans for bringing Chicago style politics to Pike County.

  37. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 4:25 pm:

    Perfectly legal, and not even unethical. Not only is there no “valuable consideration”, there’s no consideration.

    Vote, don’t vote, the coffee is free.

  38. - low level - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 4:55 pm:

    If ever you needed an example of how crazy all this “reforming” has become, the outcry over this is example #1.

    The law was designed to prevent precinct captains from both parties for paying people to vote. My mom tells me that whee she grew up, before the election the Repub guy would give them a dollar to vote one way and the Dem guy would give them a buck to vote his way. Since they needed the money, they took it and one voted Dem and the other GOP.

    It was THAT kind of thing that law was intended to stop. Not a rally featuring local candidates.

  39. - A guy... - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 5:04 pm:

    This one’s not even close. Of course it’s illegal. They’ve just been getting away with this so long, the line isn’t blurry, it’s non-existent. Amazing. Ick.

  40. - Under Influenced - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 5:11 pm:


  41. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 5:30 pm:

    It’s as corrupt as Rauner’s inducement to legislators to vote against pension reform.

  42. - Bigtwich - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 5:33 pm:

    The courthouse in Pittsfield is on a square. If 89 feet is a problem that wipes out most of the business district. By the way, Free Press Coffee is not an inducement for the media but a location.

  43. - Soccertease - Friday, Oct 31, 14 @ 6:45 pm:

    Even if it’s not illegal doesn’t make it right.

  44. - Anon - Saturday, Nov 1, 14 @ 3:20 pm:

    This sure seems to violate the statute. However, I am not an attorney. I’m not sure if it’s illegal, and I’m not sure it matters. What is troubling is that these candidates would do anything that even hints of impropriety. Further, a states attorney candidate should absolutely know voting laws and steer clear of anything that could even be construed as unethical or illegal. Candidates running for office should go out of their way to be above board– democrats and republicans alike. I think that this is especially true on the local level. Citizens must have confidence in the voting process. This is a shameful attempt to influence voters to vote for these two particular candidates.

  45. - mrb - Saturday, Nov 1, 14 @ 8:58 pm:

    Just spread the word and let republicans go get some free stuff too…”Thanks for the coffee and gift card. I’m off to vote republican”!

  46. - HIgh and Mighty - Sunday, Nov 2, 14 @ 12:52 pm:

    Welcome to the land of Illinois Politicians and Lawyers - and we wonder why we’re in trouble! We now have more lawyers than farmers in Illinois - and a lot more corrupt politicians to earn our current reputation as “the most corrupt state in the nation”.. I wonder why business organizations and retirees want to get out of Illinois!! Pray that common sense people will go to the polls.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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