By Chuck Ballaro
A group of Cape businesses are doing more than bemoaning the Cape's traditionally low voter turnout - they're offering discounts to those who cast a ballot in the Nov. 5 General Election.
The discount campaign was launched by Dan Puleio, the owner of Cape Cleaners.
"I'm fairly new to the Cape, I came down last January," said Puleio. "I came to learn that voter turnout is dismal. I understand in the primary between 6 and 8 percent voted and, I believe, in the last General Election they had a 18 to 20 percent turnout."
So he put up a sign in his business at 810 Cape Coral Parkway, offering a 10 percent discount to those who come in with an "I Voted" sticker on election day.
The initiative took off from there, with 11 or 12 businesses now saying they will also offer voters a price break or discount.
He's hoping for additional business participation and, so, an improved voter turnout.
"As many as we can, as many as we can," Puleio said when asked his goal. "I really think people need to vote and be involved in their community issues."
To help foster that voter interest, and to increase customer traffic for businesses taking part, Puleio has created a Web site www.votecapecoral.com where merchants can offer discounts to people who wear their "I Voted" stickers on Election Day; it's a one-day special.
Among those who have taken up on the offer - and agree with the premise behind it - is Sweet Magnolia's Coffee House on Southeast 47th Terrace.
"We are trying to encourage the voters of Cape Coral to vote. As a collective group we decided we could offer incentives to get people, out and take advantage of what the businesses are offering," said Debbie Legg, executive director of Sweet Magnolia's, a non-profit business. "It's important to vote. Things are changing in our economy. It's a different world than it was even five years ago."
For Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce president Mike Quaintance, it's a win-win for area voters and for the business community at large.
"It's an incentive maybe voters won't ignore and anything we can do as a business community to create more value and get more people to show up at the polls," Quain-tance said. "Turnout is always a challenge for city elections."
Quaintance said it's a shame more people don't come out to the polls, but those who are a supporting the initiative are doing it for the right reasons.
"The pride in the community has waned a little for elections," Quaintance said. "If it brings someone in for the first time it's a good thing. Those who have signed up are trying to make a difference."
Businesses can e-mail their offers to Dan@Cape-Cleaners.com for inclusion on the website.
The only requirement is that merchants offer customer discounts on Election Day.