News Story

Group Promoting School Tax Hike Accused of Sending Voters Felonious Offer

Promising something of value to ‘yes’ voters ‘so blatantly a crime’

A local group formed to promote a school property tax increase has been accused of committing a felony by offering a chance to win $150 in gift cards to anyone who voted “yes” on the May 5 tax proposal. The offer was made in a May 1 Facebook post.

YES for OPS Community is campaigning for a $22.9 million school bond issue placed on the ballot by Otsego Public Schools.

“If you live in Otsego, MI and you voted YES For OPS either by Absentee Ballot of if you plan on voting in person on May 5th, 2020 we would like to thank you by offering the chance to win $150 worth of gift cards to use at some of our amazing local businesses,” the post stated.

Otsego Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Haase said in an email that the district was not associated with the committee. He said the committee was made up of parents and community members.

About 20 minutes later, Haase sent another email stating that he had asked the committee to take down the Facebook post.

The post was taken down within minutes. YES for OPS Community didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Eric Doster, an election law expert who has worked with the Republican Party in the past, said that making this offer to voters is a felony, and anyone who accepted the offer would be committing a misdemeanor.

“Because this is so blatantly a crime, I wonder if this is actually a sting operation by law enforcement,” Doster wrote in an email to Michigan Capitol Confidential.

Doster cited the relevant section of election law, excerpts of which follow:

168.932 Prohibited conduct; violation as felony.

Sec. 932.

A person who violates 1 or more of the following subdivisions is guilty of a felony:

(a) A person shall not attempt, by means of bribery, menace, or other corrupt means or device, either directly or indirectly, to influence an elector in giving his or her vote, or to deter the elector from, or interrupt the elector in giving his or her vote at any election held in this state.

168.931 Prohibited conduct; violation as misdemeanor; “valuable consideration” defined.

Sec. 931.

(1) A person who violates 1 or more of the following subdivisions is guilty of a misdemeanor:

(a) A person shall not, either directly or indirectly, give, lend, or promise valuable consideration, to or for any person, as an inducement to influence the manner of voting by a person relative to a candidate or ballot question, or as a reward for refraining from voting.

(b) A person shall not, either before, on, or after an election, for the person's own benefit or on behalf of any other person, receive, agree, or contract for valuable consideration for 1 or more of the following:

(i) Voting or agreeing to vote, or inducing or attempting to induce another to vote, at an election.

(ii) Refraining or agreeing to refrain, or inducing or attempting to induce another to refrain, from voting at an election.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.