November 03, 2008
"Starbucks Free Java Violates Election Law, State Says (Update1)"
Bloomberg offers this report, which raises the issue under state law.
I believe this violates federal law as well, as I've blogged. Gerry Hebert writes to say that the federal election prosecution guidelines would not apply to commercial inducements: "p. 47-48 of the Federal Proecution Manual makes clear that the purpose of the federal vote buying statute (42 USC 1973i(c)) is to guard against exposing the federal election to potential corruption." I think the danger here is of offers being made for turnout only in certain areas, or among certain populations, that can be inducements which skew the vote.
So while Starbucks and others are motivated by civic virtue (if not commercial promotion), others may use payments for turnout for more political purposes.