Gumbo With a Side of The Law: How a Lexington Cajun Restaurant Could be Breaking Election Rules by Encouraging People to Vote

Bourbon 'N Toulouse Logo

By Chris Stewart

Most people realize that buying a person's vote is illegal under Kentucky and federal law. However, few realize how far Kentucky's vote buying statute actually goes.

Bourbon 'N Toulouse, a Lexington Cajun restaurant, is offering a $1 discount today for anyone wearing an "I voted" sticker.  The issue here stems from the language of KRS 119.205(1), which makes it a felony to offer an “expenditure to any person, either to vote or withhold his vote, or to vote for or against any candidate or public question.”  The law’s broad language includes any kind of payment.

Bourbon 'N Toulouse’s offer may just fall under the law. The restaurant is offering an “expenditure”—the discount— in exchange for the assurance (through an “I voted” sticker) that someone voted. The statute does not require that the offer be made for a vote for a specific candidate. Rather, it covers payments made for any vote cast.  A discounted price for an item likely qualifies as a payment to vote.

Bourbon 'N Toulouse is not the only company that could fall under this law.  In the 2008 election Ben & Jerry’s was going to offer a free cone to anyone with an “I voted” sticker until a law professor caught the problem. 

Increasing voter turnout and participation is always a good thing.  The question is how to determine the line between “vote buying” and community engagement in the election.  Bourbon & Toulouse’s discounted offer seems to violate Kentucky’s vote buying statute.

UPDATE: Doodles is also offering free beignets for anyone wearing an "I voted" sticker. Beignets would certainly also constitute something of value.

Note from the student editors: Do you agree with the statute?  Post your opinions below!