An Arizona political activist is placing his bets that a proposal to pay one lucky voter $1 million will drive people to the polls.
Dr. Mark Osterloh, a Tuscon ophthalmologist who has run unsuccessfully for governor and the legislature, filed paperwork Monday to put the idea before state voters on the 2006 ballot.
"Who do you know that doesn't want to be a millionaire? What's the worst thing that could happen? Everybody who's eligible to vote could be voting," he said.
Osterloh and other supporters said they gathered 185,903 signatures of registered voters, well over the 122,612 required for a ballot initiative. Elections officials will check the signatures to see whether enough are valid to qualify the measure for the ballot.
Under the plan, the $1 million awarded to one randomly selected voter after each election would come from unclaimed Arizona Lottery prize money. A voter could get one entry in the drawing for voting in the primary and another for the general election.
An Arizona State University faculty member who specializes in voting topics was concerned about the proposal. The $1 million reward is a "gimmick" that could cause some people to vote without giving sufficient thought to how they're voting, said Kelly McDonald, an assistant professor of political communications.
"I'm not sure I want people who are voting just because they have a 1 in 12 million chance of winning," McDonald said.
Secretary of State Jan Brewer, a Republican who is the state's top elections official, declined to comment, citing her office's role in helping determine whether the measure qualifies for the ballot. Spokesman Garrick Taylor said the state Republican Party had no comment, while spokesman Matt Weisman said Democratic Party officials were reviewing it and hadn't taken a position.
The official canvass from the 2004 general election in Arizona indicated that 77 percent of registered voters cast ballots. The more than 2.6 million residents registered to vote as of March 1 represent 60 percent of the estimated 4.4 million Arizonans age 18 or older in 2005, though the voting-age population includes illegal immigrants and felons not eligible to vote.
Osterloh, who has played prominent roles in successful initiative campaigns on health care and public campaign financing, said he has contributed more than $200,000 toward the petition effort.
"We want to make sure that we get everybody voting so we get truly representative government," he said. "If people don't vote, they don't get represented."