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Fenty blocks vote-buying bill

Tim Craig

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) has blocked a council bill that would have made it a crime to pay people to vote, according to council staffers.

Last month, the council overwhelmingly approved a bill by council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) that would have enshrined in the local code the federal prohibitions against paying someone to vote or register to vote, or accepting payment to vote or register to vote. It also made it a crime to use a false name to register to vote. Violators could be fined as much as $10,000 and face five years in prison.

But Fenty friend and strategist Ronald Moten lobbied the mayor to veto the bill. Moten worried that the council, led by Fenty rival Vincent C. Gray (D) was trying to quash the mayor's go-go concerts designed to get low-income African American residents registered to vote.

According to council staffers, Fenty blocked the legislation through a pocket veto. Under Home Rule, the mayor has the option of signing, vetoing or taking no action on a bill approved by the council. If the council is in session and the mayor refuses to sign a bill, it automatically becomes law. If the council is in recess, however, a bill that is not signed by the mayor does not become law.

Fenty's staff confirmed the pocket veto.

In this case, the council was on summer recess when Fenty failed to take action on Cheh's bill, according to Cheh staffers. That move effectively kills the bill unless the council wants to reconvene to pass another version of it. The council is scheduled to be on recess until mid September.

In an interview, Moten stressed Fenty's pocket veto does not mean he condones vote-buying. "He believes people who pay people to vote should be locked up, and I agree too," said Moten. But Gray and Cheh clearly passed a bill that was not clear on what the rules are and they did this at the last minute of a tight election, which is troubling."

Moten noted numerous local candidates - including Gray - hold events where they offer free food to try to get residents registered to vote. Some candidates have also traditionally offered senior citizens free food on Election Day.

But Mo Elleithee, a Gray strategist, blasted the mayor's decision.

"The bill says, in the most simple of terms, you can't buy someone's vote," Elleithee said. "The fact that the mayor wouldn't sign it speaks volumes. We knew that he had no problem bringing pay-to-play politics to the mayor's office. Now it appears he has no problem bringing it to the ballot box."

--Tim Craig

By Tim Craig  |  August 16, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election , Campaign Finance , City Finances , D.C. Council , Mayor Fenty , Tim Craig , Vincent C. Gray , vincent gray  
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How can the Mayor equate providing food to potential voters as buying votes? Buying a vote means BUYING a vote--paying someone off, giving a service of monetary value, making special deals,etc. to get a vote. His reasoning is lame for wanting to veto this bill.

Posted by: utampa08 | August 16, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I hope to see Mayor Fenty led off in cuffs following the election. He is as corrupt as it goes. To veto a measure to align District voting laws with those of Federal regulations speaks volumes about Fenty's intent.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | August 16, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has blocked a council bill that would have made it a crime to pay people to vote.

Hmm, he has a large election fund from businesses. Looks like Fenty is about to bring Chicago style politics to the District.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | August 16, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Is there a way to see the actual wording of the bill?

Posted by: bsmiller25 | August 16, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

This is so outrageously blatant, it really doesn't need any additional comment. Mo Elleithee said it all, and very well.

"It's the corruption, stupid." End the reign of Emperor Adrian and his Green Mobsters.

Posted by: nan_lynn | August 16, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I guess we will be bringing Florida to the District of Columbia, except there will be no hanging chads. Everyone should be very affraid of having the thought of a tampered election. The Nation's capitol doesn't need that black eye.

Posted by: zippergyrl1 | August 16, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

He chose to veto the bill because he is doing just that. And for Moten to comment on anything Fenty does or be quoted is just disgusting. Who is he anyway? If he sways any voters it will just be pathetic. And trying to get voters of the go-go scene is not going to cut it. For one the kids aren't the age to vote. They can keep on trying their race base campaigning all they want but it's not going to work.

Posted by: mikiacurrie | August 16, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

bsmiller25, here's the full text of the bill; I'll add the link in the main post as well.

Christopher Dean Hopkins
Deputy Editor, Local Politics and Government

Posted by: Christopher Dean Hopkins | August 16, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Mayor Fenty is absolutely thoroughly disgusting and corrupt. Fenty should be thrown behind bars in prison for life. He is a worthless piece of trash.

Posted by: ashafer_usa | August 16, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

I know a lot people read this blog. So if you work or know Mr. Holder on a personal level or ANYBODY @ the justice department, please tell them that we are about to have Bush 2000 2.0. We need the justice department to step in PLEASE!!!!

Posted by: thelildiva4u | August 16, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

We should have worked more diligently, two years ago and recalled Fenty. (Right as he began to drain the $1 Billion surplus that Anthony Williams left.)

Fenty's veto of this bill is yet another demonstration of his disdain for a fair election process. He must go! Let's get this done on September 14th.

Posted by: sheridaw | August 16, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

How can you possibly veto this? Something stinks. And needs to be thrown out on Sep 14.

Sec. 2. Section 14 of the District of Columbia Election Code of 1955, approved August
12, 1955 (69 Stat. 699; D.C. Official Code § 1-1001.14), is amended by adding a new
subsection (a-1) to read as follows:
“(a-1)(1) It shall be an offense for any person to knowingly or willfully:
“(A) Pay, offer to pay, or accept payment of any consideration,
compensation, gratuity, reward, or thing of value either for registration to vote or for voting;
“(B) Give false information as to his name, address, or period of
residence for the purpose of establishing his eligibility to register or vote, that is known by the
person to be false;
“(C) Procure or submit voter registration applications that are known by
the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent;
“(D) Procure, cast, or tabulate ballots that are known by the person to be
materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent; or
“(E) Conspire with another individual to do any of the above;
“(2) A person who violates paragraph (1) of this subsection shall, upon
conviction, be fined not more than $ 10,000, be imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.”.

Posted by: DCResident3 | August 16, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Jimof1913--hasn't he been working on that his whole term? Starting with taking power over the schools?

Posted by: 1citizen | August 16, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

LOL! [I only read the headline].

Posted by: johng1 | August 16, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Ron Moten tells the mayor what to do. That will always be remembered as his last act of desperation before the primary.

Posted by: candycane1 | August 17, 2010 7:01 AM | Report abuse

mikiacurrie - he has already persuaded voters - to NOT vote for Fenty...

Could it be that this is what the 400K was/is for?

Posted by: missboo | August 17, 2010 7:03 AM | Report abuse

Fact: Ron Moten is a convicted drug dealer.
Fact: Mayor Fenty's administration provides DC government funding to Ton Moten's group, Peaceaholics.
Fact: Ron Moten is working to get Mayor Fenty re-elected.
Fact: Moten's group has a network of teenagers, some of whom are of voting age.
Fact: Mayor Fenty vetoed a bill that woud have made it a crime to pay people to vote.
Draw your own conclusions.

Posted by: ObjectiveReader1 | August 17, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Wow! This does not look good for the Mayor. It really stinks. Bad move.

Posted by: PepperDr | August 17, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Yesterday, Dorothy Brizill’s newsletter reported that the Board of Elections is including Mayor Fenty’s campaign literature with the voter registration applications they mail to DC residents. Please read it for yourself; here’s the link and it's the 3rd article:

**EVERYONE THAT READS THIS COMMENT NEEDS TO CALL THE FBI @ 202-278-2000 AND ELECTION PROTECTION @ 1-866-OUR-VOTE ** and REPORT THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS; FENTY vetoing The Corrupt Election Practices Amendment Act of 2010 which makes it illegal to pay someone to veto, and RON MOTEN’S voter intimidation tactics.

Posted by: GoldCoast | August 17, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

DCresident3, you may be correct that something stinks but I see how the language leave open that someone offering a meal could fall afoul of the rule:

"(a-1)(1) It shall be an offense for any person to knowingly or willfully:
“(A) Pay, offer to pay, or accept payment of any consideration, compensation, gratuity, ***reward,*** or ***thing of value*** either for registration to vote or for voting;" (emphasis mine)

I am not an attorney so I don't know the answer but the ambiguity to me stems from the phrase "thing of value" and "reward." Is food a "thing of value" or a "reward?" Could it be? How about a concert? This is Washington, so I am sure there are plenty of attorneys posting, can any of you consult your law dictionaries and define for us these terms? Could the mayor be right in this instance that the food and concerts could fall afoul of the law passed by the Council?

(This puts aside whether or not we want concerts and food give-aways as part of voter registration efforts.)

Posted by: timfry | August 17, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I think that the Moten strategy of requiring people to register in order to get into the concert would be a violation of the anti-fraud law. But if he let everyone in and then went around the concert asking people to register, that would not be a violation. Same thing with food.

Posted by: tacard1 | August 17, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Council needs to reconvene and vote down this veto by emergency legislation. We are introducing too many new voting options this year to not have such a safeguard in place. I think this Mayor is intentionally trying to embarrass the District of Columbia by vote rigging.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | August 17, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

If there's already a federal law against paying people to vote, a local laws is useless. What's the point? Is it going to be MORE illegal? It speaks more to the character of the mayor with his vote, but of it passes if it fails it doesn't matter it's ALREADY illegal. I guess DC should make treason and smoking on airplanes illegal to, sure they're already illegal according to the Feds, but apparently if DC doesn't pass a local law and the council members don't get their photo op and good PR to prove "we're doing something for YOU" it isn't.
This is just another small example of DC government being useless. Glad I live on the other side of the river, DC's biggest problem are their politicians. What a watse of time. I know this is a wacky and weird idea...but DC's got just a -few- real problems to deal with try fixing them instead of passing laws that are already on the books. Oh yeah...that means they couldn't take any credit for it.

Posted by: Petegreen | August 17, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

My guess would be this line that caused the veto:

It shall be an offense for any person to knowingly or willfully:
“(A) Pay, offer to pay, or accept payment of any consideration,
compensation, gratuity, reward, or thing of value either for registration to vote or for voting;

Technically (and without more clarifycation) offering refreshments at a rally for voter registration could be considered a compensation, gratuity, reward for registering. Take out the registering part and leave it as no paying for the actual vote and he would have signed it.

Posted by: schnauzer2 | August 17, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Why does this story get such little play. This is actually real news. I understand this is a Democrats play for votes because the majority of their voters are so brain dead that they need to get paid in order to get their lazy butts to the polls.

Posted by: Jsuf | August 17, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Jsuf, I think bubba, the GOP base, in the trailer park has challenges putting the Olde Milwaulkee down and getting to the polls.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | August 17, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

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