Beware of “I Voted” Promotions
This is a reminder for restaurants and other businesses that some federal prosecutors have taken the position that it is a illegal to participate in “I Voted” promotions, where businesses offers a discount or something else of value to customers wearing “I Voted” stickers.
At issue are two federal criminal statutes that prohibit vote-buying. The first forbids making or offering to make “an expenditure to any person, either to vote or withhold his vote, or to vote for or against any candidate.” The second forbids paying, offering to pay or accepting “payment either for registration to vote or for voting.”
In light of these statues, some prosecutors have said that participation in an “I Voted” discount is a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in jail. For example, before our last presidential election, one U.S. Attorney announced: “The public is reminded that federal law prohibits expenditures to influence voting, including offers to make an expenditure to any person to vote or withhold his or her vote.” Therefore, “businesses should not offer free or discounted food, drink or services in exchange for voting.”
In reality, given the number of these promotions and discounts, the probability of enforcement seems low. So, you may not be carried off to jail for accepting a discount on your coffee. That being said, some prosecutors might say your half-price joe is a crime! Proceed as you wish.