Somewhere, some very high powered executive has a math equation about food giveaways. It probably goes something like this:
W amount of complimentary press + X amount of up-sell (“Do you want a nacho with that free taco?”) + Y amount of difficult-to-define brand loyalty – Z cost of some free food = ???????????????????
Which is to say, giving away food is rarely just philanthropy. It’s calculated, it’s smart, and it creates the sort of free advertising and consumer goodwill that boardrooms crave. Still, it’s free food. We like free food. If Uproxx has to draw a line in the sand, we’re going to err on the side of free food every time. That’s a hard position.
Especially when it comes to situations like voter turnout, which we’re very much in support of. So when Krispy Kreme announced that they’re giving away free donuts to anyone with an “I voted” sticker on November 8th, it’s very much in our lane. Except there’s one problem: It’s election fraud. Like, 100%.
From US Code 597:
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; and
Whoever solicits, accepts, or receives any such expenditure in consideration of his vote or the withholding of his vote—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
And it’s not exactly like this rule is archaic either. You can see how these giveaways could be candidate-based voter enticement if positioned a certain way. For instance, if a cool, trendy THC-infused microbrew in the Pacific Northwest gave free beer to voters, they would essentially be garnering votes for Clinton, because she tracks better with PNW THC-infused microbrew lovers. Or whatever…
Luckily, Krispy Kreme is probably fine here because voters of all stripes are into donuts. Can you imagine Trump or Clinton pressing the issue and filing charges, and then the story breaking? It would swing the election!
Jackie Woodward, Chief Marketing Officer of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, is probably keenly aware of this rule, but she’s taking a calculated risk, probably also well aware that any penalties assessed would be even more free marketing for the brand.
“We want to sweeten Election Day by saying ‘thank you’ to those who participate at the polls,” Woodward said in a statement. “It has been a long election season, and we think a free treat is the perfect way to reward voters.”