FRANKLIN — A coupon to House candidate Josh Aldrich’s business being handed out at polling places Tuesday morning in the Franklin-5 district is under investigation by the Secretary of State’s office, which has contacted the Attorney General’s Office regarding a possible violation of election law.
The coupon offers voters a 7-cent return rate at Pop-a-Top Redemption, a Richford bottle redemption center owned by Aldrich. Although it does not say that a vote for Aldrich and fellow Republican Shane Rhodes is necessary to use the coupon, it does encourage the recipient to vote for them.
Will Senning, head of the elections division at the Secretary of State’s Office, said Vermont election law prohibits any undue influence on voters. He cited 17 VSA 2017, which reads: “A person who attempts by bribery, threats, or any undue influence to dictate, control, or alter the vote of a freeman or freewoman about to be given at a local, primary, or general election shall be fined not more than $200.00.”
In an email to the Messenger, Senning stated, “Although the card does not directly state that you will receive the benefit only if you vote for a particular candidate, it is our opinion that handing this card out to voters at the polling place before they vote would tread very close to a violation of this provision. At the very least, we think it is a bad practice because of the impression it creates. The attorney general’s office has authority to enforce that portion of the election law, and I have asked them for their opinion in this matter.”
Reached by phone, Aldrich confirmed the coupons were being handed out at all four polling places in the district, which covers Berkshire, Franklin, Highgate and Richford.
He said he had not checked with the Secretary of State’s Office about the legality of the coupons before handing them out, but did say “It was no different than buying pens or pencils, I was told.”
When told the state was looking into the matter, he said, “We will stop doing it.”
“It’s more for my business,” Aldrich said.
This story has been revised from the version which appeared in the Messenger this morning to include Aldrich’s comments.