Archive for Friday, August 4, 2006

Voting could mean big money in Arizona

August 4, 2006

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— "Vote your pocketbook" could take on a whole new meaning in Arizona.

The state is considering a proposal to boost turnout during elections by awarding a $1 million prize to one randomly selected voter, just for casting a ballot.

"It gives them something to shoot for," said Rosie Coyote, 55, a process server from Phoenix. "It gives them motive. I think it's a good idea."

But others warn that the raffle would trivialize the electoral process, distort the outcome and violate state or federal law.

Arizonans will vote on the reward idea Nov. 7. The proposal made it onto the ballot in June after supporters turned in nearly 184,000 signatures, or about 50 percent more than required.

If the measure passed, election officials would assign a number to each voter who casts a ballot in a state election. The state commission that oversees the Arizona lottery would then hold a public drawing to pick a winner, with the prize money coming from unclaimed lottery prizes.

Arizona's turnout of registered voters in the 2004 general election was already high at 77 percent, compared with nearly 61 percent nationally.

"One of the goals that I've had in my lifetime is to see that all Americans have health care like every other major country on earth. One of the ways to do that is to make sure that everybody votes," said Mark Osterloh, a Tucson ophthalmologist and political activist who headed and bankrolled the reward campaign.

Casey Mammen said it trivializes the electoral process.

"Voting is a privilege of an American. That's the way it should be viewed, not as a bribe to get me to come do what I have the privilege to do," said Mammen, 33, a pastor in El Mirage.

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