Free Election Day Coffee may be Illegal

November 4, 2008 at 6:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

imagesToday the whole world watches as the US decides its next president. Nationwide efforts by Starbucks and Krispy Kreme to reward with free coffee and doughnuts voters doing their civic duty may contrast with Californian legislation banning gifts to the electorate.

Starbucks announced in a commercial during the popular tv show “Saturday Night Live” the nationwide reward of a free cup of coffee to people who said they voted on Tuesday. Likewise, Krispy Kreme will give customers a doughnut in the shape of a star, with red, white and blue sprinkles, to anyone showing the traditional “I Voted” sticker at participating locations.

However, twenty years ago, a different doughnut company ran afoul of California Elections Code section 18521(b), which bans giving anything to people who voted, or if they stayed away from the polls. The law is meant to stop people from being bribed with money, food or alcohol. Punishment is listed as a prison sentence of 16 months to three years.

A spokeswoman for Starbucks said the company was not violating the law because they were using the honour system and not asking for any proof that anyone voted.

Meanwhile the coffee cup poll by the convenience store chain 7-Eleven has given Senator Obama a huge 20 percentage point lead over his rival Senator John McCain. The poll started eight years ago. It had correctly predicted results for both the presidential elections held since then.

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