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Changes Proposed For Food For Votes Law

February 14, 2011, 5:49 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Changes Proposed For Food For Votes Law
PIERRE, SD - South Dakota lawmakers are taking aim at voter bribery. A bill in Pierre would make it illegal to feed voters and then take them to vote absentee at a local polling place.

It's an issue that came up during last year's hotly-contested U.S. House race when there was a lot of confusion over how far campaigns were pushing the law. 

"Sometimes in campaigns, candidates and campaigns and their staff they get so focused on trying to get one more vote, or ten more votes, or 100 more votes that sometimes they'll push the law a little too far and so that's what we're really trying to get accomplished with Senate Bill 88," South Dakota Senator Bob Gray of Pierre said.

Republicans criticized then Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin for holding early voting rallies on South Dakota reservations during her last campaign. Food was offered at the rallies and then volunteers drove voters to their polling places to vote absentee. The Attorney General and the South Dakota U.S. Attorney both ruled nothing illegal happened.

Gray questioned the rallies during the last election when he was the Republican Party Chairman. Now, Gray is working to make the law more black and white.

"We simply want to clarify and amend the current statute to make sure it's very clear that you can't feed voters and then have them walk across the street and go vote," Gray said.

Gray says the bill would clear up the controversy about early voting rallies and protect the state's voters from bribery.

But if offering food to voters is a crime, what about the more than 100 free meals and events offered to lawmakers as they make decisions during the legislative session.

In tonight's Eye On KELOLAND, we take a look at the dozens of dinners, and long list of lunches to see if it has any free influence on lawmakers.

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