Updated: Candidate Withdraws Bounty On Republican Registrations

We received the following press release from Denise Merill’s office <read>

MAJORITY LEADER MERRILL SEEKS LEGISLATION
BANNING BOUNTIES FOR REGISTERING NEW VOTERS

State House Majority Leader Denise Merrill (D-Mansfield, Chaplin) said Monday that she would immediately seek legislation banning bounties or other payments in exchange for the registration of new voters.

“I am very troubled by the practice of using money to influence or persuade a person to register to vote before an election,” Merrill said. “Any practice like this is fraught with the potential for voter fraud. I plan to seek immediately, by way of an amendment to a bill, legislation that would ban this practice.”

The issue arose over the weekend when it was disclosed in a newspaper report that the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Linda McMahon was paying $5 for each Republican registered during a voter registration drive in Merrill’s district at the University of Connecticut.

“I was shocked that this was being done in my own district,” Merrill said. “The fact that someone might take advantage of a student in need of money is appalling.”

Although the practice may not be illegal, concern has been raised by the U.S. Justice Department, which has contacted state officials who are also looking into McMahon’s campaign voter registration drive.

We tend to agree that it should be illegal.  Ms. Merrill  and her campaign for Secretary of the State is a good example of someone that might be unfairly hurt by such a practice.  In addition to possibly procuring votes for Ms. McMahon the effect would also preclude an unsuspecting student from being able to vote in the Democratic Primary if that would have become their choice as the campaign season progresses.  Sounds as bad or worse than some of the things that ACORN was only accused of doing.

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Update: Senate candidate Linda McMahon has withdrawn the $5.00 bounty for Republican registrations.  Courant Story: McMahon Decides Not To Offer Students Bonuses; <read>

After being criticized for offering to pay University of Connecticut students extra money for every Republican registered at a voter registration drive this week, U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon has decided not to offer the bonuses.

“We have dropped the bonus component of our voter registration drive,” said McMahon’s spokesman, Shawn McCoy, today. “The bonuses are in full compliance with the law, but Linda weighed the concerns that were raised and asked that we drop that component of the plan prior to the launch.”

Students who help with the drive will still receive $10 an hour, but will not be paid the $5 bonus, McCoy said, noting that this is not the first voter registration drive McMahon has worked on. It, however, is the first time the Republican candidate was going to offer bonuses, he said.

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A Similar Story Of Two Investigations of Registrations Going Farther: CA Voters Tricked Into Registering As Republicans With Pot Petition: <read>

Orange County authorities are launching an investigation into possible voter registration fraud after a local newspaper reported over a hundred cases of voters being tricked into registering as Republicans by petitioners who asked them to sign petitions for, among other causes, legalizing pot…

In a lengthy investigation published earlier this month, the paper pointed to an $8 “bounty” offered by the California Republican Party for each new registration as a cause for the problems. It identified multiple petitioners who work for vendors “with ties to the California Republican Party.” Back in 2006, a similar scandal led to the convictions of several petitioners.

2 responses to “Updated: Candidate Withdraws Bounty On Republican Registrations”

  1. mattw

    My understanding is (though it’s not clear from this press release) that the $5 is pocketed by the campaign employee doing the registering and not the voter who is signing up. Assuming that’s the case…

    ACORN would hire people to do voter reg, then fire them if they didn’t bring back enough cards. McMahon is doing something with more potential for mischief (kids who didn’t check any party *or* no party — a common enough occurrence — might find themselves enrolled as Republicans), but I can’t say that either really bothers me.

    The remedy to falsified registration cards is enforcement action. If I were Rob Simmons, I’d (still) get a list of every UCONN kid who signs up as a Republican, call them up to ask if they intended to register as a Republican, and pursue action with the SEEC for the cases where someone had the box checked by the McMahon staffer after they left. The campaign would have a strong incentive to do as ACORN did and implement pre-filtering and tracking cards, so that each would be subjected to scrutiny before submission (they all have to be submitted, but ACORN would always identify cards which they believed to be invalid), and that problems could be traced to individual employees.

    Getting your campaign involved in the election process is always politically dangerous — if you have unofficial checkers, you’re going to be subjected to accusations of persuading voters. If you have challengers, you’re going to piss people off. If I were on McMahon’s campaign staff, I would not think that chasing UCONN students (a lot of whom disperse over the summer) would be worth the headache. But hey, if she’s got $50M to spend and wants to throw it at college kids to register their buddies that are moving away next month, then at least she’s creating a couple of jobs, right? If they break the rules, then the campaign should get zapped. But not before.

    Anyway, it’s politically smart for Merrill to pursue this, and I’m happy (as a partisan Democrat) to see some of these guys press the advantage with the flow of current events and the news cycle instead of blowing every opportunity that gets handed to them. But it should be mentioned a) she does not sit on GAE, and is therefore b) not the chair of GAE (meaning she can’t introduce anything in the short session), and c) GAE isn’t scheduled to meet before the end of the session anyway.

  2. mattw

    But hey, this is pretty spicy:

    Although the practice may not be illegal, concern has been raised by the U.S. Justice Department, which has contacted state officials who are also looking into McMahon’s campaign voter registration drive.

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