Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Swilling the Voters with Bumbo

You've got to give 'em credit. The "Ribs for Votes" scheme has a long pedigree. According to Tracy Campbell's book Deliver the Vote: A Historuy of Election Fraud, An American Political Tradition - 1742-2004, both Washington and Jefferson tried this type of thing. Back then, swag was provided at the polls. According to Campbell, Washington, in running for the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758, spent nearly 40 pounds (real money back then) for gallons of wine, rum, brandy and beer. Washington's only concern was that his campaign manager had "spent with too sparing a hand." I turst that WisconsinJobsNow - whoever that may be - will not make the same mistake.

Jefferson dis it too, buying liquor for voters in his own race and anticipating the lame excuse offered by today's offenders. He saw the hootch as a reward for those who had taken the time to travel to the polls (which were often quite distant) and vote. A bit more convincing than the contemporary dodge that barbecue and prizes are a "celebration of voting" - but not much.

Still the Founders were not all in on this. Madison refused to do it in is 1777 race, calling "swilling the planters with bumbo" a "corrupting influence." He must have been right because he lost that race.

But he won the argument and, as has been pointed out, this practice, however old, is illegal. Sec. 12.11(1m)(a)1 applies to anyone who "[o]ffers, gives, lends or promises to give or lend, or endeavors to procure, anything of value, ... to, or for, any elector, or to or for any other person, in order to induce any elector to ... [g]o to or refrain from going to the polls." Do this and you've committed a Class I felony punishable by a fine of up to $ 10,000 and imprisonment of up to 3 and a half years - more if you've got record.

The organizers of these bribery parties say that they're in the clear because someone could come to the party, take the goodies and not go vote. The GAB disagrees and it does seem that the events offered and gave an "inducement" to vote.

There is no way to unring the bell and it is extremely unlikely that this type of fraud would ever justify setting aside the results of an election. That almost never happens.

Because the electoral consequence cannot be avoided, it would seem to present a rather strong case for vigorous prosecution. It is also essential, in political cases, that where there is a clear violation of the rules, officials act quickly. To do otherwise is to essentially excuse the violation and encourage more of this type of thing in the future.

But there may, moreover, be a political price to pay. I see an ad about out of state special interests bribing voters. Not pretty.


Anonymous said...

Shouldn't this be considered free speech? And are you equally concerned with the absentee ballot mailings perpetrated by GOP supporters?

Anonymous said...

No, Anon. 3:33, you've got it wrong. The First Amendment protects the rights of corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to support Republican candidates and slam Democrats. Citizens United teaches that this is protected by the First Amendment. If a union group has block parties on the Northwest Side and offers free rides to the polls so that poor black electors may exercise their franchise, that's election fraud and a felony that must be penalized most severely. You see the difference, don't you?

Dad29 said...

Wisconsin law sees the difference.

Then there are the "Laws are fo' SUCKERS!" folks, commonly known as Da Yoooooooooonion Boyzzzz.

Anonymous said...

Turns out the scumbags at Wisconsin Right to Lie were engaged in similar chicanery. I look forward to the Assistant Adjunct Part-time Spare Part Professor ecoriating them as well!

jimspice said...

I am confident you will present an equally vigorous critique of these groups: http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/126733888.html

Rick Esenberg said...

Anon 3:33

If it falls within the prohibition of the statue, it is not free speech. Bribery is not expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. That is why Anon 4:50 is wrong in suggesting that Citizens United protects something just like this. The Court has long held that contributions that present the risk of quid pro quo corruption - even if they don't rise to the level of bribery - can be regulated (albeit not prohibited) but that independent expenditures - because they do not present that risk - cannot be limited in the same way. So, at least in the view of the Court, Citizens United did not involve similar conduct.

I'll post on the Right to Life stuff later.

Anon 8:56

Rough day,huh?

Anonymous said...

Money spent by Wisconsin Jobs Now for block parties would be what's called an "independent expenditure," no?

Display Name said...

I know you're all looking for bumbo recipes.

Anonymous said...

"The Court has long held that contributions that present the risk of quid pro quo corruption - even if they don't rise to the level of bribery - can be regulated (albeit not prohibited) but that independent expenditures - because they do not present that risk - cannot be limited in the same way."

And when all that unregulated money from American Crossroads elects GOP candidates, the big donors would never expect anything in return...

Rick Esenberg said...


They would be but the point is that bribes are not protected. They can use their money to, for example run campaign ads. They can't use it to buy voters.

Anonymous said...

The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.

But if you have a block party and serve food, and offer rides so that poor people can cast their ballots, you're going to the big house, son. Election fraud. Why, some of those voters probably haven't passed their literacy tests.

Anonymous said...

Hypothetical for your next Election Law class, Professor. Candidate for political office schedules victory party for the night of the election. Two weeks prior to election night, sends invitations to every volunteer who worked on the campaign. Invitations say, "Thanks for all your hard work rounding up the vote for Joe Schmitz! Come celebrate the victory at the Tinseltown Inn, 8 p.m. Election Night. Refreshments will be served." At the victory party, it's a cash bar, but -- horrors -- complimentary ribs are being served.

What say you? "Offers . . . or promises to give or lend . . . anything of value . . . to . . , any elector, or to or for any other person, in order to induce any elector to . . .[g]o . . . to the polls"?

Obviously such "bribery parties" must be harshly prosecuted, right?

Dad29 said...

Joe Schmitz never threw that party.

It was JOHN Schmitz of California, who happens to be a shirt-tail relative of mine.

Display Name said...

Anony, is Joe Schmitz a Republican or a Democrat?

Rick Esenberg said...

Anon 5:33

You can give them rides to the polls but the statute says that you can't provide anything of value to induce them to take that ride. The idea is that they have to want to vote without regard to whether they can get something in return. If the concern is simply to get poor people to the polls, there is no need to provide anything other than the ride.

Nobody argues that they can't have a block party to promote a candidate and provide information about voting. Nobody says that you can't give people rides to the polls (or to the city hall for an absentee ballot). The problem is putting the two together.

The Schmitz hypo is materially different in that it is removed from the act of voting. A better hypo would be if you needed one of those "I voted" stickers to get in.