TUPELO • Mississippi’s top election official and the local district attorney are investigating whether City Councilwoman Nettie Davis ran afoul of election laws prohibiting voter turnout efforts linked to cash raffles.
During a campaign event on Saturday, Davis described an upcoming raffle that would award cash prizes to people who cast a ballot in Tuesday’s municipal election, according to a video posted to Facebook. The video has since been deleted.
“If you will come back here and donate $100, and we’ll give this money away to people who went and voted,” Davis said. “We’ll pull names after they have voted, and what we’ll do is give this money away the day after the voting is over.”
Later, she indicated that raffle participants would prove that they cast a ballot by showing their “I Voted” sticker, which are distributed by poll workers at local precincts.
In the video, Davis does not describe the upcoming cash raffle as a reward to vote for any particular candidate.
Davis could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a strongly-worded statement released Monday evening, District Attorney John Weddle said his office is investigating the raffle described by Davis.
“These actions will not be tolerated,” said Weddle. “…I am dedicated to handling this matter and any other violations aggressively.”
Weddle is working with Secretary of State Michael Watson in the investigation, according to statements by the two men, who are both Republicans. Davis is a Democrat.
In a statement released late Monday afternoon, Watson did not mention Davis by name but said his office is investigating multiple allegations of get-out-the-vote efforts in Tupelo that Watson claims could violate state law.
“Our office recently received reports and video footage of what appears to be an individual publicly offering cash prizes to encourage voter participation in Tuesday’s municipal election in Tupelo,” Watson said in a statement. “We’ve also received numerous reports of local churches promoting cash prizes to encourage absentee voting in the same area.”
According to state law that Watson cites, it is unlawful for anyone to “put up or in any way offer any prize, cash award or other item of value to be raffled, draw for, played for or contested for in order to encourage person to voter or to refrain from voting in any election.”
The statute in question provides for a fine not to exceed $5,000 for violators. It also provides that elected officials violating the statute may be removed from office.
The office of Attorney General Lynn Fitch is reviewing the video of Davis and is awaiting the submission of a formal complaint before determining whether any further action is needed.
“We take all complaints about election integrity seriously,” spokesperson Colby Jordan told the Daily Journal.