Did Mitt Romney Engage in Illegal Vote Buying in Wisconsin?

ABC News reports that Democrats are accusing Mitt Romney of violating the laws on bribing voters.  Here’s what happened, according to ABC,

Romney and Ryan’s event at Cousins Subs, billed by the former’s presidential campaign as an “Election Day Lunch,” was attended by a solid crowd on the day of the state’s primary.

The two politicos stood behind the store’s counter, handed out subs to a long line of people in attendance, and urged them to go vote.

“Get out and vote,” Romney urged voters in attendance at the sandwich shop. “If we have a good turnout, then I’ll become the person who receives the Wisconsin delegates that I need to go on to become the nominee and finally take back the White House.”

As I have explained in my California Law Review article, Vote Buying, it is illegal in federal elections to pay people to turn out to vote (even if you don’t pay them to vote for or against a particular candidate. (Indeed, after Ben and Jerry’s announced plans to give free ice cream to voters on election day, my complaints led the ice cream company to change its policy, giving non-voters, including children, the same right to free ice cream on election day without a voting stub.)

So did Romney violate the law?  It sure doesn’t seem like it from these facts.  No one had to prove they had voted to get the sandwich. No one apparently promised to vote to get the sandwich, nor did Romney ask for such a promise. (I leave to others whether this could violate a separate Wisconsin provision of the law.)

It is questionable whether nominal gifts for turnout (like donuts) should count against the vote buying ban.  But the facts here don’t look like a gift for turnout.  It looks like a gift with an exhortation to vote.

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