An "I Voted" sticker in seen during early voting for the mid-term elections at a public library in the Lake View Terrace neighborhood of Los Angeles on Nov. 4, 2018. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

If you look online during the 2018 midterm election, you may see offers for free food, coffee, rides, and more. But are providing election freebies legal?

UC Irvine Law Professor Rick Hasen said, “It is illegal in elections when federal candidates are on the ballot to offer free stuff (including free food or drink) to people upon proof of voting.”

The law, 18 USC Sec. 597 - Expenditures to influence voting, states: “Whoever makes or offers to make an expenditure to any person, either to vote or withhold his vote, or to vote for or against any candidate; and whoever solicits, accepts, or receives any such expenditure in consideration of his vote or the withholding of his vote shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”

A US Department of Justice document provided a more concise summary of it, “A literal reading of Section 597 is theoretically capable of reaching anything that can be characterized as an 'expenditure' which is made for the purpose of affecting the voting process at any proceeding that can be characterized as an election.”

While many businesses are likely only trying to engage in normal marketing practices offering promotions in synch with the election season and event, and not trying to influence voters, it is also possible there might be some election fraud.

Many of the election freebie offers are contingent upon people coming into various shops or businesses with their "I voted" stickers to get discounts, so their stated intention is not to influences voters one way or another, it’s apparently only to reward them for voting and to bring in business.

A restaurant in Missouri ceased its election day sandwich promotion after receiving a Facebook comment about whether or not such an offer was legal, though no lawsuit was filed against it. “But we’re just a small independent with about 30 employees. We don’t have the resources to deal with that kind of lawsuit if it came up. So we just canceled it,” said Sanford Speake, the restaurant’s owner.

Sajj Mediterranean, a food outlet in San Francisco, was reported to be offering free baklava or chocolate hummus for those customers who came in with their "I voted" stickers. “Our objective is to encourage people to vote, regardless of party or preferences,” said Zaid Ayoub, Sajj CEO and founder.