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Published May 11, 2012, 10:32 AM

Beer-for-voting promo under investigation in Grand Forks

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota crime bureau agents are investigating a Grand Forks bar's promotion of rewarding early voters in the mayoral election with a free beer.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota crime bureau agents are investigating a Grand Forks bar's promotion of rewarding early voters in the mayoral election with a free beer.

Gilly's Bar and Grill on May 4 provided bus transportation from the University of North Dakota campus to the county office building, where absentee voting is available, and rewarded customers with a free drink if they displayed an "I voted" sticker. Mayoral candidate Tyrone Grandstrand, a friend of the bar owner, posted details of the promotion on his Facebook page and brought "I voted" stickers to the county office building.

County Auditor Debbie Nelson said her office typically does not hand out those stickers during absentee voting, which is conducted in advance of the June 12 election.

Grand Forks County State's Attorney Peter Welte said it is not illegal for a person or business to provide transportation to the polls or reward the act of voting. Starbucks, for instance, has given free coffee to voters. But Welte said it is illegal for candidates to provide transportation or beer in exchange for a favorable vote.

Bar owner Josh Gilleland told the Grand Forks Herald (http://bit.ly/J2XxzQ ) that the promotion was not designed to solicit votes for Grandstrand.

"It's one thing to promote a candidate, but it's another thing to give something to vote for somebody. Hands down, I wouldn't be a part of that," he said. "I'm not going to do anything close to illegal or unethical. No way I'm going to say, 'Vote for Grandstrand and we'll give you a free drink.'"

Grandstrand said he was just trying to get out the vote — something he has been doing for months.

"I've been going around campus all semester, trying to get out the vote early," said Grandstrand, who was the UND student body president from 2008-2010 and represents the UND area on the Grand Forks City Council. "When I found out what (Gilly's) was doing, then I told (students) to get on the bus. I went to eight fraternities and sororities ... telling them to get on the bus."

Grandstrand said UND student government provided buses for students to vote early in 2008, when he was the student body president.

"This was basically the same idea, just bringing people there, not telling them what to do," he said.

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Information from: Grand Forks Herald, http://www.grandforksherald.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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