Contest contravenes election law

Complaint negates effort to increase voter turnout

  • Nov. 17, 2011 4:00 p.m.

They are still hoping youth Rock the Vote, even if it’s to a different tune.

The Best Damn Sports Bar was hoping to draw more young people to the polls this Saturday for the municipal elections with a promise that anyone who provided proof that they voted — such as a picture of themselves at the poll — would be entered into a draw for prizes like a 42-inch flat screen TV.

But general manager Max Picton explained the bar hit a snag. Someone had forwarded the bar’s press release about Rock the Vote to elections officials complaining about photographs being taken inside the polling station. The city’s elections staff sent an email to Picton noting that photographs were not allowed inside, and voters should not be encouraged to capture images.

He sent out a statement on Friday clarifying people should take photos outside of the polling station. Picton received another email on Monday which caused them to shift course.

“Further to that, I was forwarded another email from the city again saying this was an official cease and desist, because offering gifts in exchange for people to vote is considered an inducement to vote,” he said. “If we continued along, the next call was going to be from the police and then probably to a lawyer.

“When we did this, it was with best intentions in mind. We wanted to get people motivated to get out and vote. We definitely don’t want to be involved in anything illegal, and that wasn’t our intent.”

Picton said the bar still wants to play a leadership role in hosting a Rock the Vote party and offering a shuttle bus service for those looking for a ride to the polls. The prizes will still be drawn, but an entry will not be given in exchange for voting; Best Damn will draw after the UFC fight wraps up around 10 p.m., and anyone present will be entered to win.

Picton said Best Damn staff were a little frustrated, but are keeping the bigger democratic picture in mind.

“It’s a bit more exposure for the voting process. That’s what we were trying to do, create awareness,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a hassle, but at the same time, it’s helping us get the message out there and that’s the most important part.

“I do think that this election will draw out a larger number of the youth. This is the first time I’ve ever noticed stuff on Facebook about an election from the youth.”