Bend man convicted of trying to buy ballots
PORTLAND — A Bend man who claimed he was exercising his free-speech rights was convicted of offering to buy unfilled, but signed, ballots for $20 each, Oregon authorities say.
Aaron Hirschman was convicted of a misdemeanor in a non-jury trial last month in Deschutes County Circuit Court, the first person in the state convicted of such voter fraud since the state adopted mail voting, The Oregonian reported.
Judge A. Michael Adler fined him $200 and sentenced him to 40 hours of community service.
The ad had been posted on Craigslist the Friday before the November 2010 election and was headlined: “Want to make an easy $20 for voting?”
It asked interested voters to be outside the county elections office in Bend near a ballot drop-off booth usually manned by a volunteer.
“All you need to do is bring your UNFILLED clean voting ballot and let us fill it out then you sign, then we hand it to the volunteer in the voting booth,” the ad said. “Its that simple! Then you get $20. We'll be there all weekend through tuesday.”
Deschutes County Clerk Nancy Blankenship said a caller warned her office about the ad shortly after it was posted, the ad was quickly taken down, and she and police officers found no sign of trafficking in ballots that weekend.
The case, which the Oregonian said hadn't been publicized, came up during a legislative hearing last week when Secretary of State Kate Brown said “some folks might argue that this was a minor case and not worth prosecuting.”
“I have to tell you, I wholeheartedly disagree,” she said. “Every voting fraud case is worth prosecuting because it sends a really strong message to potential wrongdoers as well as to the public.”
Attempts to reach Hirschman and his lawyer Monday were unsuccessful. His office said Yeager was out of the country and couldn't be reached. No telephone or online listing for Hirschman was immediately available.
“He stated in his interview and at trial that he is an Internet ‘troll’ and that he posted the ad to ‘agitate’ and cause a stir,” said Jeff Manning, a spokesman for the state Department of Justice.
Manning said Hirschman argued that the law barring offers to buy ballots violated his First Amendment rights.
It's clear, though, that offering to commit a crime is not protected speech, said David Fidanque, executive director of the Oregon branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“It's equivalent to joking about a bomb in an airport when you're going through the facility,” Fidanque said. “There are some things you don't joke about.”
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com