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Many Businesses Offer Voters Election Day Freebies, But Are They Legal?

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Election 2012

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — If you’ve already cast your ballot, hang on to your “I Voted” sticker, which could get you a free meal, as well as other discounts.

Customer Felix Salzman has a lot of tasty reasons to eat at the Burger Lounge in West Hollywood, but when he heard they were offering a free combo of fries and onion rings with any purchase and an “I Voted” sticker, he couldn’t resist.

“This is the half and half. It’s half onion rings, half fries, and it tastes even better because it’s free ‘cause I voted today,” he said.

The Burger Lounge is just one of many businesses offering freebies or discounts to people who show their sticker or voter registration card.

Carneys is also giving away free hot dogs and hamburgers.

“You know, just offering something nice – businesses offer discounts all the time for various different things, so why not?” voter Anthony Maimer said.

At Crumbs Bake Shop, you can get a sweet deal – 10 percent off – patriotic cupcakes.

“We’re very unbiased, so we have the Republican, a Democratic, an Independent, and a generic USA!” manager Courtney Petz explained.

At Madame Tussauds Hollywood, you can show your sticker and take pictures with your favorite stars. You can even see the president in the Oval Office.

“As our way of saying thank you for voting, we wanted to give everyone who voted free admission to Madame Tussauds Hollywood. Admission is normally $25.95, so it’s a pretty great deal,” Valerie Wang said.

Discounts and freebies may be popular with voters, but they are actually illegal. Election law experts say no one can offer any kind of benefit or reward for those who vote in an election that has federal candidates on the ballot.

They say these things can be targeted to help voters known to vote for one candidate or another, but voters like Whitney Aviles don’t understand why freebies would be a problem.

“That’s weird. It’s not like they’re saying vote for a certain person, right? They’re just saying, ‘Hey, if you do this, we’ll give you and incentive to come into our businesses.'”

Experts say despite the federal ban, it’s unlikely anyone will be prosecuted.

Only free transportation to and from polling locations can be offered free of charge.

Check out CBSLA’s list of Election Day freebies.

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