OKLAHOMA CITY – After turning in your ballot, many voters grab one of those ‘I Voted’ stickers to wear for the rest of the day.
In turn, some businesses have offered free and discounted items to give back to those citizens who exercised their right to vote.
However, federal law prohibits giving away free and discounted items just for voting.
Shake Shack, Blaze Pizza and Potbelly Sandwich shops are among the national chains that offer free fries, cookies and other items to customers who vote.
Officials said they skirt the federal rule by actually offering goodies to anyone who asks.
It was a surprise to many people News 4 spoke with on Tuesday, including the owners of Empire Pizza. The owners wanted to give a free slice of pizza to voters with an ‘I Voted’ sticker, no matter who they voted for during Tuesday’s election.
“It’s just such an important time and no matter who you vote for, just to exercise your right,” said Rachel Cope, founder of 84 Hospitality Group.
Cope said she just wanted to thank voters for getting out to vote but she didn’t know what she wanted to do was illegal.
“A free slice for just coming in and letting us know you voted,” she said.
Cope said she woke up Tuesday morning with a Facebook message from the Oklahoma State Election Board, saying giving away free stuff just for voting is against the law.
“I was confused because, again, I had never seen that before, and I don’t understand,” she said. “I don’t understand why that’s a problem. And, we are not alone. We weren’t coercing anyone to vote one way or the other. We just said vote. I saw discounts and free items all over the nation.”
The law states, “whoever makes or offers to make an expenditure to any person, either to vote or withhold his vote, or to vote for or against any candidate, shall be fined, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”
Paul Ziriax, with the Oklahoma State Election Board, said the law is nothing new. He said they have sent out tweets every year reminding people of the laws.
“Bottom line is those are sent out every election by our office as a public service because a lot of people don’t know the law, and we want people to be informed,” he said.
Ziriax said he understands the “freebies” are just to encourage people to vote but it’s still the law.
Cope said she may do something about it in the future.
“I feel like that should change,” she said. “I don’t see why we can’t at least address it at some point, so maybe this will draw some attention to that.”
Ziriax suggests calling the Election Board or an attorney to make sure whatever giveaway you’re doing is not violating the law.