I will stop, I will stop at nothing . . .
I trust I can rely on your vote
It’s less than a year until the 2016 election. So far the campaign has been more fun than a barrel of monkeys – wouldn’t you agree?
I will likely go to the polls on November 8. But if voting made me eligible to get a free drink at a local bar, I would definitely go vote that day.
According to the Washington Post, a local “voter-mobilization entrepreneur” named L. Henry Pratt arranged for voters at seven precincts in Arlington, VA to get wristbands good for reduced-price drinks last month when Virginia voters went to the polls. (Virginia is one of only five states that holds elections in odd-numbered years, not even-numbered years.)
|L. Henry Pratt|
The precincts targeted by Pratt’s nonprofit organization had high concentrations of younger voters and low turnout rates. Pratt’s hope was to “encourage young voters to celebrate democracy.”
“By creating a celebratory atmosphere around the act of voting, [our organization] looks to draw more apathetic young voters out on Election Day,” a press release from the group stated. “What could be more motivating than a night on the town?”
The group’s logic seems impeccable, but the vote-and-get-drunk-for-less campaign was a flop. Only about 65 or 70 bracelets were taken by young voters, according to Pratt.
“What we learned is that people are not up for celebrating democracy on a Tuesday night of a work week,” Pratt opined. (That certainly wouldn’t have slowed me down, but kids today are hard to figure out.)
Many businesses have offered Election Day promotions recently. In 2012, the Tim Hortons fast-food chain offered a free donut to anyone wearing an “I Voted” sticker who bought a cup of coffee.
But that promotion violated federal law. You see, it’s illegal to offer any kind of reward for voting in an election in which federal offices are up for grabs. (Tim Hortons is headquartered in Canada, so I guess you can’t blame then for not knowing that.)
You would think it would be a good thing for when businesses offered discounts or free items to people who voted, as long as they didn’t only reward people who voted a certain way. So why are such promotions illegal?
Because the government is afraid that such giveaways could be targeted to increase turnout among voters who were known to prefer one party over the other, potentially tipping the balance in an election one way or the other.
In 2012, a company called Buyology studied how Republicans and Democrats differ when it comes to brand preferences.
For example, what is the favorite fast-food chain of each party? Democrats favor Wendy’s, while Republicans prefer Subway.
|Preferred by Republicans|
Why is that? Fortune magazine has a theory:
At Wendy’s, menu options are prepackaged into meals, and customers typically order by number; Subway patrons, on the other hand, are practically forced to customize their meals as they walk their sandwiches down an assembly line. “What Democrats are responding to is somebody smart making choices for them that makes their lives better and easier, and fundamentally what Republicans are responding to is the ability to make an individualized choice,” [the CEO of Buyology] says.
Let’s say Democrats worked a deal with Wendy’s giving people who voted free burgers and fries. If the promotion was heavily advertised, it might increase turnout among people who might not otherwise bother voting. Given that Democrats like Wendy’s better than Republicans, the majority of the people who turned out to vote in order to get a free meal would likely be Democrats.
At least that’s the reasoning behind the law prohibiting such giveaways. It’s a bit of a stretch, n’est-ce pas?
When Tim Hortons was informed of the law, it modified its promotion by offering a free donut to anyone who brought in a coupon on Election Day and bought a cup of coffee. Whether that person had voted or hadn’t voted no longer mattered.
By the way, Buyology found out that the favorite sport of Democrats is NFL football, while Republicans prefer major league baseball.
That would have surprised the late comedian George Carlin, who had this to say about the differences between football and baseball:
In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use the shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.
In baseball the object is to go home . . . and to be safe! I hope I'll be safe at home!
Here's the entire George Carlin football-baseball routine:
“Electioneering” was released on Radiohead’s 1997 album, OK Computer. (Radiohead’s music is really, really, really good.)