The wrong kind of promise


You can’t buy votes.

It’s against the law in Colorado to promise payment or contributions to an elector. No matter how subtle the offer.

“1-13-720.  Unlawfully giving or promising money or employment. (1) It is unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, by himself or through any other person:   (a) To pay, loan, or contribute, or offer or promise to pay, loan, or contribute, any money or other valuable consideration to or for any elector, or to or for any other person, to induce such elector to vote or refrain from voting at any election provided by law or to induce any elector to vote or refrain from voting at such election for any particular person or to induce such elector to go to the polls or remain  away from the polls at such election or on account of such elector having voted or refrained from voting  for any particular person or issue or having gone to the polls or remained away from the polls at such  election.”

You can’t offer money to people or organizations, contingent on your election to office.

One of our candidates for a seat on the county commission, Mike Hayward, faces a dilemma. He has promised, if elected, to turn his salary over to several, not yet determined, local non-profits. E-mails flew amongst those involved with a number of local non-profits, encouraging people to help select the organizations to which the money would go. One such e-mail noted that, while participation is no indicator of whether the respondent will vote for Hayward, his victory could mean a big boost for the non-profit’s cause.

An inducement?

Vote buying?

In our opinion, yes.

Complaints filed with the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office prompted an investigation, with the case sent to the DA Monday. The DA awaits receipt of an affidavit before examining the case.

Regardless of the DA’s conclusion, a move to buy votes remains a significant ethical issue. It is one thing to promise to advocate for non-profits once in office; it is another to promise to donate to non-profits if elected.

We do not know Mr. Hayward well enough to comment on his character. Our few dealings with him have been positive; he has been helpful and gracious.

We won’t jump to the conclusion that Mr. Hayward’s offer is a cynical political move. We credit the offense to a naivety that reflects a lack of knowledge of the law and correct political practice.  The strategy is regrettable, and unacceptable.

But, there is something else wrong with this situation:  voters who would be swayed by such an offer.

Is a potential payday the reason you vote for a candidate — not his understanding of the process of county government, his plans, his ability to reckon with the obligations and limitations the office presents?

If so, you have sacrificed the value of your role as a credible elector.

We believe local politics is the sole arena in which individuals still count; money has not yet captured the day. Electors can make contact with candidates, obtain meaningful information about a candidate’s abilities and ideas, comfortably predict how a candidate will perform.

An elector has impact, and responsibilities, at the local level. Do you surrender this to the possibility that you and your interests might receive money from a candidate?

We do not endorse candidates, but we cannot approve a situation so clearly off track.

We have no argument with someone donating his or her money to charitable causes, but the promise to do so can’t be part of a campaign. Further, we believe it is wise to remember that charity is most noble when the donor remains anonymous.

Karl Isberg