Is it Illegal to Drink and Vote?

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For a brief moment on Friday, Albuquerque, N.M., police officers wondered if it was illegal to drink and vote. Why? A woman had passed out while casting her ballot at an early-voting site. Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver doesn't know if the woman completed her ballot — she was subsequently transported by ambulance to a local hospital, which has no record of admitting her — but said it will be counted.

Poll workers called police after the woman began yelling and screaming at them. When the officers arrived, she had lost consciousness with a bottle of vodka tucked into her waistband. A little checking determined that it was not illegal to be drunk when casting a ballot, but election laws do prohibit liquor at voting sites and creating a disturbance. Charges have not been filed.

"No one knew if this was illegal; we've never dealt with this before," says Nadine Hamby, a police spokeswoman. Lawmakers apparently didn't think drunken voting would be a problem either, figuring they addressed it by restricting Election Day liquor sales until after the polls close. They hadn't anticipated what early voters might do. Because the woman passed out before inserting her ballot into an electronic tabulator, her vote will be hand-counted. Her political affiliation is not known.