Secretary Of State Says Candidate’s Contest Is Illegal

May 10, 2014 8:00 am

by Nathan · 10 comments

Chip Flanegan, Republican candidate hoping to unseat incumbent Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland in Georgia’s 3rd District, has a contest on his website. He’s not giving away a gun, but rather $10,000 cash for folks who take his “simple ten question survey”. The only problem is, the Secretary of State’s office has said that Mr. Flanegan could be committing a felony. From WBRC-TV:

“Each question is worth $1,000 and two of them are really throw away questions. It doesn’t matter how you answer them so we will give away at least $2,000 to whoever the lucky winner is. The whole reason we are doing this is to get people to know the candidates and that is at the top part of my card,” Flanegan said.

But a spokesperson with the Georgia Secretary of State said Flanegan’s contest is illegal because of the following language from a state law OCGA 21-2-570.

“Any person who gives or receives, offers to give or receive, or participates in the giving or receiving of money or gifts for the purpose of registering as a voter, voting, or voting for a particular candidate in any primary or election shall be guilty of a felony.”

Flanegan insists that he is not breaking the law and has said that the Federal Election Commission does not prohibit contests.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Silver May 10, 2014 at 11:31 am

Sounds like candidate flanegan should be getting a visit from the Sheriff as well since he’s operating an unlawful lottery (16-12-20 and later)

General Jack D. Ripper May 12, 2014 at 8:26 am

If a person just needs to answer the survey and doesn’t have to donate or give any other money or “consideration,” then it sounds like one of the following permissible contests (from 16-12-20 (4))

(A) Promotional giveaway or contest,
(B) Scheme whereby a business gives away prizes to persons selected by lot, or
(C) Raffle authorized under Code Section 16-12-22.1.

As for the SoS’s lawyer…sounds like they need a new one if they are interpreting the other section to mean voting in a survey. Agree with Stefan. Don’t see how it applies.

Holden Caulfield May 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Just my humble interpretation, but when you go to the actual survey, the language says that:
“If you don’t vote by May 20, 2014 in Georgia’s 3rd District Congressional Republican Primary you will not be eligible to win this contest. One winning entry will be randomly selected from those who:
1. Completed this survey, and
2. Voted in Georgia’s 3rd District Congressional Republican Primary.”

So in this case, it certainly seems the case that the survey is offering to give the money upon condition of voting, violating OCGA 21-2-70.

General Jack D. Ripper May 12, 2014 at 2:05 pm

And that’s the part missing from the article above. With that addition, then it’s, in my opinion, clearly illegal.

saltycracker May 10, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Filed under: you can’t make this stuff up.

Stefan May 11, 2014 at 5:33 pm

I’m a huge fan of piling on, but I don’t see how that particular section of code addresses the contest on the site. It is certainly illegal, or at least unlawful, but not because of that section.

These people are not “voting” or “registering to vote” in an “election” as it is defined in the code. Unless you can actually vote/register through that guy’s web site, which would be a feat.

saltycracker May 11, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Uh oh, legal semantics. Two is not a pile….the contest is for those voting in the 3rd to increase the sponsor candidates chances “for the purpose of voting for a particular candidate”, the sponsor.

No purchase or vote necessary…the contest is not about making folks smarter but picking up a few extra votes without paying everyone in the district for showing up.

On the lighter side the average politician is less likely to be influenced by dinner and a show by a lobbyist than the average voter would be by playing a sponsors contest.

Stefan May 11, 2014 at 8:21 pm

I know two isn’t a pile, I was hoping to make it three. If no vote is necessary, it is merely a monetary incentive to visit the guy’s website and fill out a survey. It doesn’t commit people to vote for him does it?

I think if the SoS is going to wade into a primary and claim someone is doing something illegal they should probably be right. There are so many violations of campaign law going on and this is what they choose to highlight?

saltycracker May 11, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Selective enforcement is SOP in most agencies
Falls into their lap sort of thing

Will Durant May 11, 2014 at 8:25 pm

On the other hand, 200 large to the totally unaffiliated PAC…