Free Tacos for Voters Could be Illegal


By Conn Carroll

According to their website, California Tortilla is offering a “FREE” taco today for anyone that wears an “I VOTED” sticker, says they voted, or screams “I love election day.”

That last option, screaming “I love election day,” is the only thing keeping California Taco from violating the law. 42 USC 1973i(c) reads:

Whoever knowingly or willfully gives false information as to his name, address or period of residence in the voting district for the purpose of establishing his eligibility to register or vote, or conspires with another individual for the purpose of encouraging his false registration to vote or illegal voting, or pays or offers to pay or accepts payment either for registration to vote or for voting shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

Payment can be anything of monetary value such as cash, liquor, lottery chances, and welfare benefits such as food stamps. However, offering free rides to the polls or providing employees paid leave while they vote are not prohibited. Such things are given to make it easier to vote, not to induce them to vote. For an offer or payment to violate 1972i(c), it must have been intended to induce or reward the voter for engaging in one or more acts necessary to cast a ballot.

As long as California Tortilla gives free tacos to voters and non-voters alike, they should be fine. But Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) may be in big trouble. Not only did her office distribute fliers offering coupons for food in exchange for votes, the candidate herself taped a phone message to push the offer to people in her district. Both acts are illegal if true.


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