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Why Can’t Voters Get Free Stuff?

Turns out, rewarding voters for voting is illegal

Giving you free stuff for this sticker is illegal. Image: buschap

In 2008, on “Saturday Night Live,” Starbucks announced it would give free coffee on election day to anyone with the standard “I voted” sticker, as a reward for voting. They then canceled that offer. This year, the same thing happened after Pound the Hill DC, a coffee shop in Washington, D.C., offered a similar bonus to voters. And in Atlanta, one outdoor shop offering a raffle ticket for a rifle or pistol to those with a voting sticker had to cancel that fun giveaway too. Turns out, rewarding voters for voting is illegal.

NBC explains:

It turns out that a giveaway to voters could violate election laws in some states that prohibit gifts for voters.  While these laws are generally intended to discourage attempts to influence voters, the lawyers were worried the Starbucks policy might be a violation.

Starbucks ended up giving free coffee to everyone who ordered a tall brewed cup. Pound the Hill Tweeted their apologies for kind of sort of breaking the law—and turned voting sticker day into just, sticker day:

And the gun raffle has been extended even to those who didn’t vote.

More from Smithsonian.com:

New Jersey Will Be Able to Vote Online This Year, But You Probably Never Will
The Vote That Failed

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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