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PROMOTIONS

Shops and restaurants elect to offer freebies to voters today

November 04, 2008|Andrea Chang | Chang is a Times staff writer

When you leave the polls today, don't throw out that "I Voted" sticker -- it could be your ticket to a free meal or half-price haircut.

To encourage people to vote, several businesses -- including restaurants, coffee shops, salons and bars -- are doling out freebies and discounts on election day, despite some concerns about whether such promotions are legal.

"We can't guarantee that your candidate of preference will win on Nov. 4," said Chef Ron Rupocinski of Krispy Kreme, which will give out star-shaped doughnuts to customers at select locations. "But we can guarantee that your right to voice your choice will be rewarded with a patriotic doughnut that will remind you just how tasty freedom really is."

The "I Voted" sticker will be good for a free appetizer at most Daily Grill restaurants, a bottle of Jones Soda or draft beer at Pitfire Pizza locations in downtown Los Angeles and North Hollywood, and 50% off services at Cristophe salons, which include shops in Beverly Hills and Newport Beach.

"It's such an important, crucial election," said owner Cristophe Schatteman, whose clients have included Bill Clinton.

"I wanted to drive people to the voting polls. I think by offering all our services at 50% off, we hopefully encourage the younger demographic to go and vote."

Even without the promise of freebies, the oval "I Voted" stickers are always a hit, said Marcia Ventura, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County registrar's office.

"People like them," she said. "If they've lost theirs, they'll come back and ask for another one."

Ventura said all voters who cast their ballots at the polls today would receive a sticker; more than 4.3 million people in L.A. County had registered to vote as of Monday.

Although questions have been raised about the legality of these kinds of promotions, dozens of Southern California stores said Monday that they were going ahead with their plans.

One problem with the promotions is that they are considered incentives to vote, which is illegal under federal law, said Kate Folmar, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Debra Bowen. The issue "comes up every election season," she added.

"It's great that companies and groups want to encourage voting, but the law prohibits any commercialization of the vote," Folmar said.

"Our office, along with federal agencies, is getting the word out to businesses about the law."

Folmar said these promotions were generally acceptable as long as they didn't require proof of voting.

Ben & Jerry's, for example, is giving out free scoops of ice cream to all customers at select locations today between 5 and 8 p.m.

Coffee giant Starbucks will give complimentary 12-ounce cups of drip coffee at most locations to customers who say they voted.

At Groundwork coffee shops, customers today or Wednesday will receive a free 12-ounce cup of drip coffee, or a dollar off any other coffee or tea in honor of election day.

Jennifer Szilvagyi, an events coordinator who visits Groundwork's downtown L.A. location every day, called the promotion an "awesome deal."

"I'll definitely go in the morning to vote and then I'll go get my cup of coffee," the 26-year-old Szilvagyi said.

"It's cool seeing how businesses are so supportive of getting people to vote. They're making it quite a celebration."

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Chang is a Times staff writer.

andrea.chang@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Meal ticket

Several businesses in Southern California will offer freebies and discounts today. Some said they would ask customers for proof of

voting.

Krispy Kreme (select locations): Free star-shaped doughnut

Daily Grill (most locations): Free appetizer

Pitfire Pizza: Free bottle

of Jones Soda or draft beer

at downtown Los Angeles

and North Hollywood locations

Cristophe: 50% off all salon services

Groundwork: Free 12-ounce cup of drip coffee (offer is also available Wednesday)

Ben & Jerry's (select locations): Free scoop of ice cream between 5 and 8 p.m.

Starbucks (most locations): Free 12-ounce cup of drip coffee

Source: Times research

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