PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Less than 30% of Philadelphia voters cast ballots during the May primary, so today, an area nonprofit announced it’s adding a financial incentive to get more people to the polls for the general election on November 3rd.
The initiative is called “It Pays to Vote.”
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” says Larry Platt, co-founder and editor of The Philadelphia Citizen. He says they’re offering $10,000 to a randomly selected voter as an incentive to get more people to the polls.
“On Election Day a voter can go cast their ballot and come out of the poll and they may just run into me holding a giant check for $10,000, Ed McMahon like,” he says.
The effort has the support of political veterans Mayor John Street and Sam Katz and it even appears to be legal in state elections.
“Under state law, as long as you don’t tell people to vote for a candidate or for a proposition, or who not to vote for someone it’s perfectly legal,” says Kevin Greenberg, an elections lawyer with Flaster Greenberg. “Think of it is as a McDonald’s promotion where you don’t have to pay to participate.”
A similar lottery in Los Angeles awarded $25,000 to a voter who cast a ballot in a district school board election last spring. The effort, according to news reports, likely boosted turnout into the thousands. Platt says he hopes Philadelphia gets similar results.
“We are on life support in terms of people taking back control of their government,” says Platt, “we ought to try new things to get people reinvigorated.”
Several groups, including Influencing Action Movement and Unity in the Community, are working parallel to the lottery to educate voters. They’ll launch Voter Education Week Activities on Sunday. Committee of Seventy is also hoping to boost education through a partnership with CrowdPac, a silicon-valley start-up known for crunching political numbers.
“We have to create a contagion to voting,” says David Thornburgh, “anything we can try, makes a lot of sense.”
Crowdpac’s site provides background and donor information for candidates in races affecting Philadelphia, including the Mayor’s race and the historic election of three of seven Supreme Court candidates. The site even allows voters to create a ballot they can email to their phone and use inside the poll.
For more on the It Pays to Vote, visit The Philadelphia Citizen: http://thephiladelphiacitizen.org.