Would a free cookie persuade you to vote in the 2018 midterm elections?
Many brand managers are going online to excite people to exercise their franchise and cast a vote. Some are offering freebies and discounts; others are just giving words of encouragement.
It’s a fine line to walk: Experts warn that it is illegal to offer anything of value in exchange for a vote, so businesses are encouraged to make their offers broad.
On social media, hashtags such as #GOTV and #Elections2018 are helping consumers find election-themed offers. Shake Shack is offering free fries through its app. Potbelly will give a cookie to customers who ask for one. Corner Bakery is doling out complimentary coffee.
This #ElectionDay, we encourage you to stand for something + vote! After hitting the polls on 11/6, score free fries with any purchase by adding crinkle cuts to your order + using the code “ivoted” on the app or by showing your “I Voted” sticker to a Team Member at the Shack. ð pic.twitter.com/40NV0mDsoS
— SHAKE SHACK (@shakeshack) November 5, 2018
— Jessob Reisbeck (@jessob_reisbeck) November 6, 2018
Remember to vote today and let your voice be heard!ð£ Come to Corner Bakery wearing your “I Voted” sticker and get a FREE hand-roasted brewed coffee or cold brew with purchase.
— Corner Bakery Cafe (@CornerBakery) November 6, 2018
Other companies are more focused on getting voters to the polls. Ride share services are offering discounted rides to polling places.
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Uber is offering up to $10 off a ride to vote:
— Uber (@Uber) November 5, 2018
Lyft is offering 50 percent off a ride to the polls:
— Lyft (@lyft) November 5, 2018
Lyft detailed its effort to help voters get to the polls in a blog post.
At Lyft, we’re working to improve lives by connecting people and their communities through the world’s best transportation. This Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 6), we want to help people across America exercise their right to vote.
It is estimated that over 15 million people were registered but didn’t vote in 2016 because of transportation issues. That’s why we’re committed to providing 50% off rides across the country, and free rides to underserved communities that face significant obstacles to transportation.
Bike share companies are also offering discounts.
Motivate, one of the largest bike share operators in North America, has launched an Election Day campaign to give people in nine urban areas access to free bikes for the day.
Motivate operates Citi Bike in New York & Jersey City; Divvy in Chicago; Bluebikes in the Boston metro area; Capital Bikeshare in Washington D.C.; Nice Ride Minnesota in Minneapolis; Ford GoBike in the San Francisco Bay Area); BIKETOWN in Portland, Oregon; and CoGo in Columbus, Ohio.
Riders across almost every Motivate system can use the code BIKETOVOTE in their local bike share app to access a free day pass. In Chicago, Divvy riders must use the code VOTE18 to access the free day pass.
Portland has a vote-by-mail system. But BIKETOWN riders can use the code BIKE2VOTE to access 30 minutes of free ride time on November 6.
Lime is also offering free access to its fleet of electric bikes on Election Day. Users just need to enter the code LIME2VOTE18 to unlock any of its shared bikes or electric bikes.
Los Angeles’ bike share program, Metro Bike Share, will also offer free rides on Nov. 6. Use the promo code 1162018 at any kiosk to get your free 30-minute free ride. The promo code is good for one Single Ride. Rides are $1.75 per 30 minutes thereafter.
As for the caveats, marketers looking to jump in on the conversation about voting today should understand laws that govern freebies and giveaways.
Usually, businesses roll out deals with presidential elections for voters who sport “I Voted” stickers even though it is technically illegal to offer freebies in exchange for votes, according to federal law.
“It is illegal in elections when federal candidates are on the ballot to offer free stuff (including free food or drink) to people upon proof of voting,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at UC Irvine told Nation’s Restaurant News.
A Chicago museum offering free admission Tuesday originally was requiring voters to show the voting sticker. The Field Museum changed its offer to free admission to anyone in Illinois.
“The intention is golden. But under the law, you can’t offer anything of value in connection with registering to vote or voting,” Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, told the Chicago Sun-Times
How are you encouraging your audience to vote, PR Daily readers?