Election Day Freebies 2012

Where to Find Them, Why They’re Scarce

Yahoo Contributor Network

Some merchants like to drive home the message that voting is a civic responsibility by offering incentives for the act of voting. For the 2008 and 2010 elections, numerous national restaurant chains announced Election Day freebies to anyone wearing an "I voted" sticker. This year the pickins' are slimmer, and the DCist blog may have identified the reason.

DCist spoke with Rick Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California at Irvine. Hansen told the blog giving freebies for voting in a federal election is illegal. Restaurants can get around this proscription, he noted, by giving free food to anyone who wants it on Election Day instead of making the offer exclusive to customers who have voted.

There are still some chains out there willing to stick their necks out to support good citizenship. Here are some of the Election Day freebies widely available:

No strings attached:

California Tortilla: You can get a free taco this Election Day. You can wear an "I voted" sticker or simply say "vote" to the cashier.

Taco Bueno: Some people want to rock the vote; this company wants to guac the vote by giving its Election Day customers a free small guac and chips.

Z-Burger: Head on over one of these Washington-area eateries for lunch and lay claim to a free hamburger or cheeseburger for wearing an "I voted" sticker. They do not require customers to have actually voted, the Burger Days blog points out. Anyone who can get their hands on a sticker is welcome to chow down on a free burger.

Starbucks: The coffee chain is offering free wristbands on Election Day to thank the public for having supported its Create Jobs for USA campaign. In an open letter earlier this year, company Chairman Howard Schulz explained the need for America to win this election rather than the major political parties. A product of public housing and a believer in the American dream, Schulz asked Americans to join together and put citizenship over partisanship.

Free with a Purchase:

Tim Horton's: Free doughnut, anyone? There is a slight catch. You have to buy a drink. Show your sticker to claim your free doughnut.

White Castle: Either wear an "I voted" sticker or get a coupon from Facebook to score a free order of sweet potato waffle-cut fries with a purchase.

Carol Bengle Gilbert writes about consumer issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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