COLUMBIA, 2/18/12  (Beat Byte) -- A February 4 Facebook post by Pamela Tillotson, wife of 6th Ward Columbia City Council candidate Bill Tillotson, is causing an uproar.

The post urges Facebook friends, Trib readers, supporters, and others to cheat in an online poll at the Columbia Tribune matching Tillotson with his opponent, incumbent Columbia City Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe.

Polls can influence elections, especially in tight races.

"Hey friends, help in voting," Pam Tillotson's Facebook post reads.  "Everyone can vote 1 time an hour.  It's real close.  It's an online poll, so it doesn't matter what ward you live in.  HELP us win!!   Vote as much as you can!   Thanks!"

Hoppe drew attention to the cheating problem in a Feb. 4 post beneath the Tribune poll.  "This is a meaningless poll.  Anyone from anywhere can vote," she wrote.  "Also the same person can vote repeatedly from the same computer, from different ones and from their cell phones too." 

Challenged by other readers, Hoppe tried it for herself.  Then husband Mike Sleadd tried it on a different computer, she wrote.  Three days later, another Trib reader weighed in after catching Pam Tillotson's Facebook post.

"I just voted for the second time so it can be done," wrote a reader called NoExit.  "This is what Pam Tillotson recently posted on her Facebook page, which is how I learned that you can do this."

No Exit then posted Tillotson's call urging supporters to cheat on the poll.  "Nice catch, NoExit!" wrote Trib reader Swingline747.

The controversy came up on the Tribune's site again, after Tillotson won the Columbia Chamber of Commerce endorsement this week.  Readers made sarcastic remarks about the call to cheat.   

"Polling is rigged," Charles Dudley also emailed the Heart Beat, with a link to the Tribune's Chamber endorsement story.  "You can vote more than once for your candidate of choice.  I just did it myself."

Bill Tillotson did not respond to requests for comment. 

[The Heart Beat saved the Facebook page and reproduced the post below]. 

  • Hey friends, help in voting. Everyone can vote 1 time an hour. It's real close. It's an online poll, so it doesn't matter what ward you live in. HELP us win!! Vote as much as you can! Thanks
    The Sixth Ward contains just 16 percent of Columbia’s population, but the race for that ward’s council seat is attracting citywide attention — and some who are unable to cast a ballot in that race might be weighing in with their wallets instead.