Thursday, October 30, 2014

Have gift cards replaced turkeys as 21st Century preference for buying a vote?

It’s one of the oldest tactics for political people representing less-than-middle-class voters to try to get their electoral support – an aldermanic “gift” whose appreciation is expected to be repaid in the future with a “vote.”

Oftentimes, that gift was a turkey or something else that could be the main course for an upcoming holiday meal. To this day, there are political people who make a point of getting turkeys they can give away to their constituents – in hopes that they get the public recognition of their “generosity.”

SO HAVE ALL those political people been behaving in a criminal manner?

Perhaps, if we’re to take the outrage being expressed against 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston these days, it is.

For Hairston is the alderman who WFLD-TV reports tried encouraging people to show up to vote for the upcoming Election Day by offering up raffle tickets – the prizes for which included gift cards to area businesses.

For all we know, some of those tickets could have been used at area grocery stores to buy items for the holiday meal (Thanksgiving isn’t that far off in the future).

ALTHOUGH THE RAFFLE is on hold, and probably now won’t happen because of the negative publicity Hairston would get – the exact opposite of her intentions.

She tried using a Facebook page promoting herself to tell people how she’d give them a raffle ticket if they showed up at the polling place. WIN A PRIZE FOR YOUR VOTE!!!!! was the theme she was trying to push.

She seems to have thought it would be perceived as Hairston trying to encourage people to do their civic duty and vote on Election Day.

Instead, it seems that people of a certain mindset took it as something amounting to a bribe – as if the raffle ticket was a bribe (or is that BRIBE!!!?!) in exchange for a vote.

ALTHOUGH IT SHOULD be noted that nowhere in the raffle announcement on Facebook were people being told exactly how they should vote. I’m presuming that Hairston figured people living in the South Side’s fifth ward would have enough sense to disregard any consideration for candidates who have an “R” associated with their names.

But the fact that she didn’t try to specifically sway someone to vote for a particular candidate may be the reason she evades some sort of criminal prosecution – although the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday that the Cook County state’s attorney’s office is looking into the whole matter.

The state election code is going to be up for interpretation in coming weeks.

Personally, I’m not bothered as much by her raffle tickets to encourage voting as I am by her attitude since then. When the matter became public, Hairston took the raffle ticket offer off her Facebook page.

IT SEEMS TO be invalid now. And Hairston is telling reporter-type people that she doesn’t want to talk about the issue any more. As though she can make it go away just because she stopped doing it before any serious damage may, or may not, have been done.

Even though I’m fairly sure that law enforcement types aren’t going to be too concerned about the after-effect. It’s the initial act itself that will get them all worked up.

So we’ll have to see in coming months if the state’s attorney winds up concluding that this matter is worth the time, effort and cost it would take to prosecute someone for the act.

Although I’d wonder if the real “offense” is that an alderman thought she could “buy off” votes for the cost of a Walgreen’s gift card. Which shows as little respect for the voter (how cheaply they can be bought) as the turkey-bearing politicos of old.


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