In the News

Lyft’s Giving Voters Free Rides to Polling Places. Is That Legal?

Friday, April 29, 2016

April 29, 2016

By Audrey McGlinchy, KUT.ORG, Photo:  Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Since the start of early voting on Proposition 1 this week, Lyft has been offering free rides (up to $10) to shuttle voters to their nearest polling stations.

These rides appear to be legal. Nonetheless, some have raised concerns.

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“Hmmm,” mused [Howard] Cook on Twitter. “I could have sworn it was illegal to offer a thing of value in return for voting.”

It is. According to Title 8, Chapter 36, of the Texas Penal Code, it’s against the law to accept any “benefit as consideration for the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote, or other exercise of discretion as a public servant, party official, or voter.”

But proving any relation between a ride and a vote is hard. My free ride was not dependent on my voting. In fact, I didn’t actually vote once I got to the polling place.

“I guess the question is, how do you ever prove how somebody voted?” asked Ross Fischer, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law who previously served five years on the Texas Ethics Commission. “So if someone says, ‘I’ll give you money to go in and vote for Prop 1,’ and someone goes inside and comes out and says, ‘I voted for Prop 1,’ how do you know whether they did that or not?”

Link to full article here.