Voters at Precinct 209 in northwest Fresno late Tuesday afternoon were getting more than a ballot receipt after casting their vote. They also received a coupon for Di Cicco's restaurants.
That's a no-no for two reasons. Polling stations are to be non-commercial. And Pat Di Cicco of the Di Cicco Restaurant family is on the ballot, running for the Fresno City Council District 2 seat against Steve Brandau.
It's illegal to campaign within 100 feet of a polling station.
Fresno County elections officials and veteran campaign consultant Tim Orman, who works for Brandau, gave slightly different versions of what happened. But they agree on the gist.
Precinct 209's voting booths were in a small storefront in the Picadilly Square shopping center on Shaw Avenue, just east of Van Ness Avenue. About 200 feet from the storefront's entrance is a Di Cicco's restaurant.
The polling station had a handful of booths. The ballot box was sitting next to the front door. On top of the ballot box was a stack of Di Cicco's coupons. It's unclear for how long. Orman took a photo of the coupons with his cell-phone camera. Eventually, the coupons were removed.
County elections chief Brandi Orth said she heard what was going on and immediately sent election coordinator Virginia Lempesis to the polling station.
It's at this point that the issue gets a bit fuzzy.
Lempesis said the coupons apparently were placed inside the polling station while poll workers were busy with voters. She said the workers apparently didn't realize someone had slipped inside the room and put the stack of coupons on the ballot box. Lempesis said she doesn't know the name of that person.
Orth said she heard that someone was passing out coupons to people after they voted. She said she heard that this person was outside the polling station. She said she also heard that the person was inside the polling station. She said she doesn't know which version is correct.
Orman said there's no mystery. He said he went inside the polling station. As he was leaving, Orman said, a poll worker handed him a Di Cicco's restaurant coupon.
Orth said the matter would be investigated if someone files a complaint.
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