Tuesday, November 4, 2008
If you watch Saturday Night Live, you may have seen the Starbucks ad promising free coffee to voters. Seattle news sources and other sources report that state officials in Washington have advised the company, however, that it may be violating the law with giveaway, as federal election laws prohibit the payment of money, goods or services in return for voting. "Federal law makes no distinction between cups of coffee or a raffle ticket versus a buy-the-vote kind of thing on the other end of the spectrum,'' said a spokesman, David Ammons, for the Washington secretary of state. "We just told Starbucks, essentially, no good deed goes unpunished. We appreciate the gesture, but it's forbidden."
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta-area voters were also offered deals on a variety of items such as Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and admission to the zoo. Like their counterparts in Seattle, businesses are reconsidering and giving freebies to all. “Businesses are free to offer election day sales to all its customers; but special offers just for voters is prohibited,” said Matt Carrothers, spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
An Associated Press story quotes Starbucks spokesperson Lisa Passe for the company's decision to offer coffee to all who come in, whether they're voters or not: "We're confident that this is a smart investment for our brand and that it's simply the right thing to do at a time when every vote counts."