Arizona May Pay One Lucky Voter $1 Million

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Further confirming what a great thing the initiative process is, an Arizona proposal that would enter everyone who actually votes into the drawing for a $1 million prize has qualified for the November ballot.

Tired of seeing extremely low turnouts (especially in the year in which he ran for governor), Mark Osterloh has collected 185,902 signatures of registered voters, 50 percent more than necessary to get the proposal on the ballot.  The secretary of state has certified it.  Osterloh, who has a law degree but was described by the Times as a "semiretired ophthalmologist" and "political gadfly," says that the lotto will provide an incentive to get people to the polls, and that if it works in Arizona it could be extended to other states as well.

Many have criticized the idea as "commercializing" the electoral process and in fact it’s probably illegal.  State and federal laws prohibit making or offering any expenditure to any person "to vote or withhold his vote, or to vote for or against any candidate," as well as receiving any such expenditure.  Supporters say that offering an opt-in lottery with a chance to win is not the same as buying a vote.  Spoilsport Jack Chin, a law professor at the University of Arizona, calls the initiative "cute and clever," but also "clearly illegal."

The Times calculated that, assuming turnout similar to that in the 2004 election, the odds of winning would be less than winning the existing lottery but greater than being killed by lightning.  So that’s good to know.

Link: New York Times