Has the Nevada Secretary of State Forgotten the Notorious Ben & Jerry’s Incident?

In what should be considered my proudest moment as an election law scholar in 2008, I was responsible for calling attention to a promotion of Ben and Jerry’s which was going to offer free ice cream to anyone who voted in the presidential election. Noting that payments for turnout are illegal when federal candidates are on the ballot, I suggested that Ben & Jerry’s needed to make its ice cream free to non-voters (including kids) so as not to run afoul of the law. The company caved to the delight of those too young to vote.
I bring this up because of the recent allegations from the Angle campaign in Nevada that Democrats are offering free food or Starbucks cards to anyone who has voted. I have seen no proof yet of the truth of these allegations or further allegations of gifts being offered in exchange for a vote for Reid. But I was struck by a sentence in this letter from the Nevada Secretary of State. Among the list of things supposedly allowed is: “throwing a post-election party which offers free food to anyone who has voted, irrespective of how and for whom they voted” (original emphasis). I believe this would still be payment for turnout, and not allowed in an election in which a federal candidate is on the ballot.


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