Candidate makes contest compliant with state law
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Congressional candidate Chip Flanegan has tweaked his online contest – which promises one lucky winner up to $10,000 – to come into compliance with state law.
Flanegan, who is running against Congressman Lynn Westmoreland in the May 20 Republican Primary for the 3rd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, was contacted last week by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, which stated his contest violated election laws.
Under state law, “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.”
Originally, contestants were required to actually vote in the election in order to be eligible for the prize in Flanegan’s contest.
Contestants must watch two videos – one of Flanegan and one of Westmoreland, and then answer 10 questions. Each correct question is worth $1,000, and one winner will be randomly drawn.
Flanegan was contacted by the Secretary of State’s office last week. On Tuesday, he talked with a representative of the office.
Flanegan was told that he would have to remove the requirement that contestants actually vote, and that would clear up any problems.
Flanegan said that, after he was originally contacted by the state, he had two attorneys and a friend who is a judge consider the issue, and none of them thought the state had a case.
“There is no correlation between the voting and the money. We are not paying them to vote,” Flanegan said. He said the secretary of state’s representative told him that even a company giving away free coffee or a discount to someone with a voting sticker is against the law.
“I’m not into starting fights with anybody. It would be a dumb fight to start,” Flanegan said. It only took a bit of work on the computer to change the contest rules. And “what it did was open the contest up to more people,” Flanegan said. “The idea was to educate the voters.”
Thanks to the controversy, “we got a lot of free publicity,” Flanegan said.