SEATTLE — Seattle-based Starbucks is making fast changes — after being accused of breaking the law with an offer to voters.
Prior to Monday afternoon, Starbucks was promoting an ad that said anyone who says enters a Starbucks on Election Day and says that they voted would get a free cup of tall coffee. Election officials for the state of Washington told KIRO 7 that rewarding voters with free coffee is illegal.”No good deed goes unpunished,” said Nick Handy, director of elections.Handy said there is a federal statute that prohibits any reward for voting.Starbucks’ good deed can be perceived as paying someone to vote, and that’s illegal, Handy said.”The way it is written, it expressly prohibits giving any kind of gift,” Handy said.Handy said the intent of the statute is aimed at special interest groups trying to influence who and how people vote.To fix the situation, Starbucks had agreed to give a tall cup of coffee to anyone who asks on Election Day.A statement from Tara Darrow of Starbucks says, “We’ve been excited by the number of positive responses received about our free coffee offer. To ensure we are in compliance with election law, we are extending our offer to all customers who request a tall brewed coffee. We’re pleased to honor our commitment to communities on this important Election Day. We hope there is a record turnout on Tuesday and look forward to celebrating with our customers over a great cup of coffee.”