A key ally of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) is calling on the mayor to veto a D.C. Council bill approved Tuesday that would make it a local crime to pay someone to vote.
Ronald Moten, co-founder of Peaceoholics and an informal adviser to Fenty's reelection campaign, said he worries that the legislation will outlaw the go-go concerts he has been organizing to rally support for the mayor.
The council overwhelmingly approved the "Corrupt Elections Practices Act" as emergency legislation, meaning it will immediately become law if signed by the mayor.
The bill, sponsored by council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), enshrines in the local code the federal prohibitions against paying someone to vote or register to vote, or accepting payment to vote or register to vote. It also makes it a local crime to use a false name to register to vote. Violators could be fined as much as $10,000 and face five years in prison.
"Now the District is going to have a parallel law to the federal law," Cheh said. "We do this in a lot of areas because it provides a backstop."
But Moten reached out to the D.C. Wire today to say he wants Fenty to veto the legislation. Moten worries that the council, led by Fenty rival Vincent C. Gray (D), is trying to quash the mayor's go-go concerts, which are designed to get low-income African American residents registered to vote.
At the concerts, the Fenty campaign encourages participants to register to vote in exchange for entrance, free food and T-shirts featuring the mayor pictured with go-go artists.
"They are trying to keep people who want in the process out of the process," said Moten, who has been organizing the concerts. "They are trying to use their power to try to influence this race. ... Are they scared?"
In an interview, Cheh said Moten clearly does not understand federal election law if he thinks her bill will outlaw get-out-the-vote concerts. She noted that President Obama used concerts extensively to rally support during the 2008 presidential campaign.
"If he is not capable of understanding, then that is really unfortunate," Cheh said. "If he is trying to create issues where none exists, that is troublemaking and that is also unfortunate, but that seems to be his stock and trade."
Moten counters that local prosecutors might construe a concert ticket as being "something of value" that could put participants at risk of being fined or jailed.
"Why are you challenging a process in which people are doing something to practice citizenship," asked Moten, who made national news this week when he compared the mayor to Jesus at a Fenty go-go concert Sunday.
Cheh said the legislation is designed to guard against fraud as the city implements her proposal to allow for same-day voter registration and 10 days of early voting in this year's elections. Although Cheh said she is confident that the process will go smoothly, she said some community leaders expressed concern after allegations that Moten paid several teenagers and young adults to vote for Fenty in a Ward 8 mayoral straw poll in May.
Moten strongly denies the allegation.