ATLANTA – An unusual voter registration drive inside a courtroom in session has caught the eye of our FOX 5 I-Team.
An Atlanta area prosecutor offered defendants in South Fulton municipal court reduced fines if they registered to vote or had already registered to vote.
But, senior I-Team reporter Dale Russell says one election lawyer says the courtroom offer violates state and federal election laws.
Taylor Swift was the big winner and a big hit with the audience at last night’s American Music Awards. She also used the winner’s circle to promote voter registration.
One local prosecutor referenced Taylor Swift when she touted her own courtroom voter registration drive.
LaDawn Blackett Jones has been city solicitor of South Fulton municipal court since its first day in operation – January of this year.
The FOX 5 I-Team found Wednesday Ms. Jones told defendants she could recommend reducing their traffic ticket or city ordinance fine if they registered to vote or could show they had registered to vote.
On her Twitter feed, Ms. Jones linked to an article describing Taylor Swift’s call for voter registration and proclaimed: “We registered voters in the City of South Fulton today. Everyone got $50 off their citation if they registered or confirmed their registration.”
There is only one problem. One election lawyer told us the courtroom offer to reduce a fine in exchange for voter registration violates State and federal law.
“You can’t offer something of value in exchange for registering to vote,” says election attorney Bryan Tyson.
Tyson says election laws can be confusing. The question now is what will happen next.
“Under state and federal law, it is a felony. The reality is a prosecutor would have to look at the case and decide if they want to bring the case,” says Tyson.
A court clerk told me there were 110 people on Judge Tiffany Seller’s calendar yesterday and that approximately 90 percent took the $50 off their fine to register or showed they had already registered.
Reached by phone, Ms. Jones told me she did not ask anyone which political party they supported or how they planned to vote. She said everyone had a choice and no one was forced to plead guilty. She considered their “civic involvement” as a factor in recommending a reduced penalty.
Judge Tiffany Sellers wrote to say she did not believe Ms. Jones violated any laws.