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Surfin’ U.S.A.—but Not at the Expense of Ballot Integrity

While Pacific Standard supports both surfing and voting, we cannot support giveaways to voters.

By Francie Diep


A local surf shop on California’s Central Coast is giving away surfboard wax to folks who come in with “I voted” stickers.

Here at Pacific Standard, we encourage both surfing and voting; however, this isn’t the way to do it. Such giveaways are illegal during presidential elections. Politico explains:

“In elections in which federal candidates are on the ballot, no one can offer any kind of benefit or reward for voting. The simple way to deal with this is to open up the event to all comers — voters and nonvoters alike,” law professor and election law expert Rick Hasen told POLITICO in 2010.

It’s not just little surf shops. National chains have run similar campaigns. And while these initiatives often seem non-partisan and well-intended, the law exists as a way to protect against business owners nudging voters toward their favored politicians through material incentives. “These things can be targeted to help voters known to vote for one candidate or another,” Hasen told Politico.

So keep voting, but stay away from the iffy freebies.