MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A juvenile court judge candidate may be in hot water for offering a cash prize in an online contest for his campaign.
Tarik Sugarmon is a municipal court judge in Memphis and started a photo competition called “Selfies with Sugarmon.”
Now some are asking if he is bribing voters.
Sugarmon asks supporters to “like” his Facebook page, follow him on Instagram and then post pictures of themselves with him or his campaign signs.
The person with the best picture is promised cash, right out of Sugarmon’s own pocket.
That’s where officials say there could be a problem.
The term “selfie” is one most young people know well, and Judge Sugarmon said that is exactly why he decided to use it as a campaign tool.
“Any campaign that’s not engaging social media is missing an opportunity,” he said.
So he’s encouraging people to post selfies with him or his campaign signs using the hashtag #selfieswsugarmon. The picture with the most “likes” gets a cash prize.
“July 18 is the deadline and on that day, we have a party planned in the Balinese Ballroom to announce the winner,” Sugarmon said. “If we get clearance on it, we’ll go ahead and give a cash reward.”
Election Commission Chairman Robert Myers said there could be a problem with the prize.
“There are essentially laws that call into question the issue of bribery, accepting bribes or offering bribes,” he said. “Then there’s also something that covers offering something of value to influence a voter or a group of voters.”
The Attorney General is the one who would decide whether any laws have been broken, but the Election Commission has not asked their office yet. WREG tried but has not gotten a response.
Sugarmon said, even he has doubts, he is “concerned as to whether it violates any election laws.”
Sugarmon insists it’s not voter bribery, but he is willing to call the contest off if necessary.
“We did not ask for votes,” he said. “We asked for ‘likes’ and retweets. I have asked for an opinion from the Election Commission on that. If it’s an issue…Obviously we have until July 18…We’ll take it down.”
Sugarmon could face misdemeanor charges if the contest is illegal.
If he is charged with voter bribery, anyone who accepted a cash prize from him could be in trouble, too.