McDonald’s serves ballots with Big Macs

The multinational fast food chain has agreed to promote participation in November’s local government election; “absurd” and “pathetic”, critics say

You want a ballot with that?

Fast food giant McDonald's has agreed to help promote the local government election on November 19 in order to increase democratic participation.

All McDonald's restaurants will be decorated with election material and a few will even host mobile polling stations where customers can cast their ballot after picking up a greasy meal.

The initiative was dreamed up by the national government, local government associations and the youth association DUF to prevent a repeat of the 2009 elections, in which the 65.8 percent turnout was the lowest in 35 years.

Poor participation
“Less than half of 19 to 29-year-olds voted in the 2009 local government elections,” DUF chairman Signe Bo stated in a press release.

“Because our voting habits are established at a young age, it’s vital for the future of democracy that the trend is turned," she continued. "If we want to reach young people with the message that they need to remember to vote, we can’t just print pamphlets and leave them at the library.”

READ MORE: A foreigner's guide to voting in the local elections

With around 160,000 customers visiting the 87 Danish McDonald's locations every day, McDonald's Denmark's managing director, Stephen Shillington, argues that the chain is a perfect setting for increasing democratic participation.

“We have a lot of guests of all ages but we particularly have a lot of young guests and we are also one of Denmark’s biggest employers of young people, so it seemed obvious to participate in the campaign” Shillington said.

Lazy voters
While there is broad political support for the fast-food voting campaign, not everyone is impressed.

“It’s the most pathetic concept I have ever heard of in politics,” Kristoffer Beck (Konservative), a member of Gladsaxe Council who is standing for re-election, told Politiken newspaper. “I fear that there are a lot of people who are going to vote because they just happen to be at McDonalds at the time. […] We are spoiled and lazy when it comes to participating in democracy.”

Roger Buch, the head of research at the Danish School of Media and Journalism, called the campaign "absurd".

"It undermines the fundamental idea that an election is something major and serious – not just something you fool around with," he told Esktra Bladet.  

But Erik Nielsen (Socialdemokraterne), the chairman of the association of Danish councils, KL, argues that drastic steps are needed to increase voter turnout.

“If voters don’t come to the election, we have to go to them,” Nielsen said, referring to the fact that fewer voters spend time in places were polling stations are traditionally placed.

“What we are doing is helping those who don’t have the opportunity to go and vote or who haven’t thought about it.”