Sometimes, doing your civic duty requires a nice cup of coffee as a reward. With the start of early voting Tuesday, some local businesses are offering discounts and other freebies during early voting and the June 8 runoff election.
Early voting for the mayoral runoff and for the City Council seats representing districts 2, 4, and 6 will be from Tuesday, May 28, through Tuesday, June 4. Polls will be closed on Sunday, June 2. Polling locations are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, June 4.
Visit the Bexar County Elections Department’s website here for registration information and polling locations. Voter registration for the runoff has closed.
Registered voters can cast ballots in the runoff even if they didn’t vote in the May 4 general election. During early voting, you can vote at any of the 24 early-voting locations. On election day, you must go to your precinct’s voting location.
Of the more than 960,000 registered voters, only 110,000 – or about 11.5 percent – cast a vote in the May election. To encourage voting and civic engagement, some local businesses and even national chains often offer free coffee or donuts during early voting and/or on election day for people wearing an “I voted” sticker.
While it is technically illegal to incentivize people to vote by offering freebies and discounts, it’s rarely enforced when the incentive isn’t tied to a particular candidate, said Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen.
“But I’m not going to be the mean one that says they can’t go get a Krispy Kreme and a cup of coffee,” Callanen said.
In 2016, Callanen brought back the “I voted” stickers for early voting because people were complaining that they didn’t qualify for free items that various businesses were offering.
As long as the freebie offered is not penalizing people or incentivizing people to vote for a certain candidate, “people don’t see the harm in it,” Callanen said.
Amy Johnson, founder of Maker Mama Media and Dog Friendly San Antonio, provided this list of businesses offering discounts and freebies. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to submit additional businesses.
- Armadillo Boulders (climbing gym), 1119 Camden St., $5 day pass, free chalk refill, free coffee/kombucha
- Mobile Om (yoga classes), various locations, $5 drop-in class
- Palm 91 (photo installation experience), 1120 E. Commerce St., 10 percent off general admission
- The Impact Guild (coworking space), 708 W. Summit, free day pass during early voting. Contact email@example.com to arrange your visit
- Farmhouse Delivery, 10 percent off next online order of organic and sustainable produce, local meat, and grocery delivery, valid May 28- June 4, use code GOVOTESA
- Montage (clothing boutique), 423 W. Grayson St., 20 percent off any one item in the store
- Feliz Modern (gift, party, and home decor shop),110 W. Olmos Dr., 25 percent off any one item
- Temple of Offering (curated retail shop), 124 Lamar St. Suite #106, 10 percent off entire purchase
- Chic’tique (women’s clothing boutique), 2202 Broadway St., 15 percent off entire purchase
- The Good Kind | Southtown (cafe), 1127 S. St. Mary’s St., 10 percent off purchase
- Medina River Coffee (coffee shop), 11825 West Ave. Suite #101, free cookie with purchase of any latte
Throughout early voting, engagement groups including the nonpartisan MOVE Texas are hosting voting celebrations at university polling stations. MOVE Texas will host poll parties at UTSA and other universities, said Executive Director Drew Galloway, and anyone can “get a slice of pizza whether you voted or not.”
Voting celebrations should remain inclusive and nonpartisan, Galloway said. “Because then you can celebrate the people who have voted already, will vote, and then also people who can’t [or didn’t] vote but are engaged in other ways.”
MOVE Texas, which is based in San Antonio but has expanded to other cities across the state, aims its efforts at increasing voter turnout among young people.
Staff and volunteers have knocked on thousands of doors, made phone calls, and sent text and emails to register 30,000 voters in Texas this year, Galloway said. They also remind thousands more to vote – including letting college students know they can mail in a ballot if they’re home or on vacation during early voting and election day.
“We’ve known for years and years that this municipal election has a low turnout,” he said. “It revolves around creating a culture of voting.”
MOVE is focusing on the “ground game” for this runoff election, he said. “It’s just about face-to-face interactions.”
Click here to read Q&As with each candidate in the Rivard Report‘s Election Guide. SA2020 also has voting information on its voter resource guide at ilovesanantonio.org, and MOVE Texas’ voting guide here.