Did McDonald's Commit A Crime By Giving Hotcakes To Voters?

Reader Josh writes us with concerns that a Chicago McDonald’s Franchisee committed a crime by offering free hotcakes to “early voters” in Chicago. He writes:

In Chicago, some McDonald’s restaurants are offering free hotcakes to people who early-vote in the local runoff elections! My friend cashed in this morning and enjoyed her hot breakfast.


This is almost certainly a violation of Illinois law:
(10 ILCS 5/29

1) (from Ch. 46, par. 29

Sec. 29

1. Vote buying.
Any person who knowingly gives, lends or promises to give or
lend any money or other valuable consideration to any other person to
influence such other person to vote or to register to vote or to
influence such other person to vote for or against any candidate or
public question to be voted upon at any election shall be guilty of a
Class 4 felony.
(Source: P. A. 78


This certainly does seem wrong. Is a hotcake a valuable consideration? We suppose it is if you’re hungry. Then again, this is Chicago we’re talking about. As Stephen Colbert once said, “Your municipal government is notoriously corrupt.” And our McDonald’s. —MEGHANN MARCO

UPDATE: We took our Chicago knowledge for granted. Yes, the pancake flier does name the candidate up for election: Alderman Howard Brookins. From Chicagoist:

According to the person who spoke with us at the campaign headquarters (who refused to give a name) this is a “campaign contribution” from a business leader in the community who supports Brookins.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Red_Eye says:

    I have no issue with someone being given a gift for voting. As long as its nonpartisan. A pancacke, seems to come fairly close, could they be made Vegan style and/or Kosher so as not to offend anyone?

  2. dbeahn says:

    Hey! Chicago is the home of “vote early, vote often”. I don’t see an issue if Chicago wants to have people come out, vote, go have a free breakfast, go vote, stop for lunch, drop off a ballot, grab a beer with a friend, head down to the polls….well, you get the idea.

  3. Skylar says:

    It’s not like they’re telling people who to vote for. What’s wrong with encouraging people to vote in general?

  4. verbalk says:

    At first glance it doesn’t seem like a problem but it could create some problems. What type of people are going to be drawn in to vote for pancakes? Are these people who meet certain demographic profiles that would be inclinded to vote one way or the other? Elections and the right to vote are esential to our democracy and shouldn’t be influenced by pancakes. Especially McDonalds pancakes.

  5. verbalk says:

    @Skylar: They may not directly being told who to vote for but the people who would be interested in this offer may be inclined to vote a certain way.

  6. markymags says:

    I’m not sure if I read this correctly or not but it appears that Alderman who is on the flyer is up for re-election.

    If Alderman Brookins’ name was not on the flyer then I think everything would be OK. However, it almost looks like Alderman Brookins is sponsoring this event – along with McDonalds.

  7. MercuryPDX says:

    Puff Daddy better watch his back…. “Vote or Die!”

    @Skylar: If you encourage people who normally wouldn’t to get out and vote it could tip the election! Some politicians are counting on your apathy to win.

    [Kidding… but not really.]

  8. niccernicus says:


    If you read the top of that “coupon,” you can see it is referencing a candidate (Howard Brookins, Jr) who is actually running.

    Had his name not been on it, I would be cool with the free flapjacks, but given that he’s running, I do think this crosses the line of nonpartisanship.

    If you need proof that he is running:

  9. digital_sextant says:

    The issue is what gift is offered, and to whom. Free Hotcakes at McDonalds might aim at a specific demographic, for instance, and thus the gift-offerer might be able to induce a specific tilt of vote with it.

    I feel torn about this, though, because I wish more people would vote. At the same time, we shouldn’t have to get a prize to make use of our rights.

  10. mcsey says:

    “Any person who knowingly gives, lends or promises to give or lend any money or other valuable consideration to any other person to influence such other person to vote or to register to vote or…”

    Even if this weren’t in support of a candidate it would be illegal.

  11. hemaphore says:

    if only ____ people vote, only _____ people will get elected.

    …fill in the blank

  12. 3drage says:

    Yep a fine line has been crossed by advertising a candidate. This should have been done during the campaign to raise money, or thank contributors. But this is for publicity towards one person and not just voting in general.

  13. Skylar says:

    @n1ckel5: Yeah, I see it now. Guess I need to RTFP.

  14. Nygdan says:

    It looks like it would come down to whether or not a pancake is ‘valuable’. Seems fair enough to have pancakes given out to everyone that shows up to vote in the morning. Heck, some candidates bus in voters to the voting booths.

    In a world of corruption, this is at least maplely good corruption.

    Unless its a dastardly plan to gunk up Mcvoting Mc-chines with Mcsyrup.

  15. Scuba Steve says:

    You can’t give out free anything without appealing to a group of people that value that item more than others.

    I feel the same way about “Busing voters”. Unless you do it for all of them, you’re affecting election results.

  16. niccernicus says:

    Too bad we can’t just go vote without having to have a cookie as a prize when you’re done….or a pancake.

    Does anyone know if they were handing these coupons out after the vote, or before they voted? If it was afterwards, it’s a little more acceptable. Unless you can see the dude handing them out on your way in. That’s shady.

  17. I’ve been supporting a concept that Congress kicked around a few years ago – a small discount on your taxes if you vote. That way, the government itself pays you money (or rather, prevents YOU from paying money) if you vote. I don’t remember why it didn’t pass, but. . . well, someone write your congressman and support this again! I want free money for something I do anyway!

  18. B says:

    if only _Hungry_ people vote, only _Maple-flavored_ people will get elected.

  19. Wasabe says:

    Well, their food is a crime against humanity.

  20. Little Mintz Sunshine says:

    Being a native Chicagoan, I do believe it’s only legal if the voter is dead.

  21. niccernicus says:


    But then we can say that the politicians who vote pro on this are giving the public a gift of money, since most likely this will attract new voters that the politicians did not have before.

    Pancakes or tax deductions…you can’t win.

  22. niccernicus says:

    @Little Mintz Sunshine:

    Is it legal for zombies to vote and eat pancakes?

  23. crayonshinobi says:

    If votes can be bought with pancakes, then we have a serious problem here. We as the American people are severely undercutting our potential. Let’s take a lesson from our representatives, shall we? If you want our votes, we’ll need some insider trading tips, a couple nights out on the town and a briefcase full of non-sequential $100 bills.

  24. XianZhuXuande says:

    “lends or promises to give […] any money or other valuable consideration

    Does a McDonalds breakfast qualify as a valuable consideration?
    I wouldn’t be inclined to consider it valuable on any level.

  25. BillyMumphry says:

    hmm… what group of people love mcdonalds? and what political party do those people tend to lean towards? they say a picture is worth a 1000 words, and that seems to be the case here.

    Where’s Don Imus when we need him?

  26. TPK says:

    Wow, a well documented felony has been committed. It will be interesting to see if it is prosecuted, and if not, then why not?

  27. TinaB says:

    Well we know that he’s got Stewie Griffin’s vote.

  28. mikesfree says:

    I thought anything was legal in Chicago Politics.

    Can I vote for Chicago to be dropped from the rest of Illinois? They are really making a mockery of the political system. The damn govenor of IL wouldnt even move to the capital from Chicago after he was elected. Now he flys to work and tells us that busineses all need to be taxed!

  29. crayonshinobi says:

    @mikesfree: Agreed, and I would second the motion to remove Chicago. Perhaps we could just raise Lake Michigan’s water levels until it floods all of Cook county.

  30. UnStatusTheQuo says:

    …adding to the pile of nearly a century of corruption in voting and politics. I wonder how many dead guys got pancakes?

  31. theWolf says:

    Political shenanigans in Chicago? No way!


  32. Brie says:

    “Hey, I voted! I get free hotcakes! …Hey, I need coffee to go with my hotcakes. And some hash browns. Yeah, hash browns sound good.”

    Sounds like a sweet deal for the McD’s franchisee.

  33. megnificent says:

    You Midwesterners are sooo easily bought. We here in Florida are not so corruptible.

    You have to up the ante to free gym trial memberships and strip club cover charges to get a record turnout. ;-)

  34. msevigny says:


    Vegan? You’re probably lucky if the pancakes are vegetarian. I bet they found a way to sneak some beef byproducts in there somewhere.

  35. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Swaying my vote with hotcakes? Please…..now on the other hand, a nice plate of waffles with real maple syrup, maybe a bagel with cream cheese and a large coffee..then we can talk.

    (Yeah, I think that was probably illegal. If I were homeless or starving, and candidate so-and-so gave me free hotcakes for breakfast, I’d probably vote for them).

  36. Hoss says:

    I though Eva Gabor was the only one that made hotcakes. This is a common term in Chicago?

  37. Miguel Valdespino says:

    Another consideration about how this may be unethical is how were the flyers distributed? In neighborhoods more likely to vote one way or another?

  38. niccernicus says:

    dude won by 2500 votes. wonder how many pancakes mcdonalds gave out.