Georgia election board dismisses Walker gas giveaway case involving $25 gift card campaign stunt
The State Election Board has reached a unanimous decision to dismiss a complaint lodged against Republican Herschel Walker’s U.S. Senate campaign.
The complaint was related to the campaign’s practice of distributing $25 gift cards at events promoting his candidacy. While officials determined that this action did not constitute vote-buying, the chairman of the board expressed his concerns about the campaign stunt, considering it “troubling.”
In response to the matter, the board has taken action by voting to send a letter to 34N22, the political action committee responsible for hosting the events.
In the letter, the committee is being admonished to act appropriately and within the bounds of election regulations going forward. This serves as a reminder to all parties involved in the political process to maintain integrity and compliance with election laws and guidelines.
The gift card giveaways at gas stations and grocery stores last year were considered legal since they were distributed to anyone who attended, including a voter who supported Walker’s opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.
According to Georgia law, payments or gifts in exchange for voting, registering to vote, or voting for a particular candidate are strictly prohibited. In this case, as the gift cards were given to all attendees, irrespective of their political preferences, it was deemed lawful under the existing regulations.
Bill Duffey, the chairman of the State Election Board, expressed his concerns regarding the gift card distribution at a downtown Atlanta Chevron station. He revealed that people were asked about their voting preferences and whether they would consider supporting Walker before receiving the gift card. Duffey emphasized that engaging in such campaign conduct requires extreme caution, and the board found this situation troubling.
The events, organized to highlight rising gas prices, prominently featured promotional material for Walker, including flyers and signs declaring “Warnock isn’t working.”
However, Tippi Burch, an attorney for 34N22, the political action committee that hosted the events, clarified that the gift vouchers were available to anyone on a first-come, first-served basis and were not conditioned on anything.
While the committee encouraged people to vote for their candidate, they asserted that the distribution of vouchers or gift cards was not dependent on a commitment to vote for Walker.
Despite this explanation, the Election Board remains concerned about the incident and emphasizes the need for careful adherence to campaign rules and regulations.
Board member Janice Johnston saw the gift card giveaways as more of a campaigning effort rather than vote-buying. Walker’s events took place from June to September of the previous year, well before the November general election, leading Johnston to view them as campaign stunts or publicity maneuvers.
34N22 distributed vouchers worth $4,000 at an Atlanta Chevron station on June 4, 2022. Similar events were also held in various locations around the state including Jeffersonville, Macon, Preston, Savannah, and Washington.
The State Election Board has previously dismissed similar allegations involving different cases, such as a Bibb County councilwoman distributing food along with campaign literature at a retirement home, a Douglas County candidate offering free hot dogs near a polling place, and the group When We All Vote providing free food at early voting locations. In each of these cases, the gifts were not contingent on voting, resulting in the dismissal of the allegations.
Board member Matt Mashburn expressed concern that these incidents might give groups or candidates the impression that they can use gifts to secure votes. He emphasized that this case came close to the line and wants to ensure that such practices are not encouraged or repeated in the future.