Is the satisfaction of participating in the ongoing evolution of and public discourse in Chattanooga not enough of a motivation to make it to the polls today?
Would a free cup of coffee or doughnut do the trick?
The organization, which emerged out of the City Council debate over the new Chattanooga city flag, is tapping into the unilateral desire for freebies as a means of encouraging voter turnout.
The perks include a free mini-pie at Fork & Pie, a free combo upgrade with a fountain drink and chips or small side at Mindy B’s Deli downtown, a free doughnut at Daylight Donuts downtown or in East Brainerd, a free bagel at Niedlov’s Breadworks, a free coffee at The Camp House on the Southside, and 15 percent off one non-sale item or a free running hat with a purchase more than $50 at Rock/Creek Outfitters on the North Shore or at Hamilton Place.
These perks are available all day, varying by the individual businesses’ hours. In fact, the freebies have been running through early voting as well.
“We want to build stronger relationship across the community,” said Enoch Elwell, director of groundswell for Creative Citizenship. “It starts with raising awareness for more interaction between community leaders and elected officials. The goal is a stronger future for Chattanooga.”
Though not a legal practice during federal elections, offering perks for voters in municipal elections is permissible. Elwell said he compared the legislative language pertaining to state and local elections with the laws governing federal elections and did not find an indication that the voter perks program would violate any regulation.
He also obtained clearance from the Hamilton County Election Commission and is relying on precedent from other communities across the county that are running similar incentives.
The voter perk program and, to a large degree, the Creative Citizenship organization as a whole primarily targets voters younger than 35.
Elwell explained that there are many young residents actively engaged in Chattanooga’s cultural and business sectors but who do not have established relationships with local officials or any tangible connection with local government.
In developing the voter perks program, the organization put out an open call to businesses in all nine of Chattanooga’s districts. It was able to secure partnerships with six, representing five districts.
Plans to continue the momentum after today’s elections include events like Public Office, in which citizens can chat with local officials about their visions for Chattanooga and various concerns in a comfortable restaurant or bar setting.
“The [end] goal is not the vote,” Elwell said. “This is really just the beginning.”
Find polling locations and an abbreviated voter guide here.