Would you sell your vote?

by Paul Michael on 2 September 2008 34 comments
Photo: Just-Us-3

Being a humble Green Card holder, I don’t have a vote here in the US (makes me wonder about that old “no taxation without representation” line, but that’s another story). Anyway, as the election goes into overdrive, a question has started to bubble up inside my head. If the price was right, would you sell your vote?

It’s important to remember that voting is a right that many people didn’t have for the longest time. Here’s a very brief history of voting in the US, as listed on many sites including ActiVote America and InfoPlease :

1776 – Voting rights based on property ownership; white protestant males over 21.
1830 – Many states drop religion and property ownership as requirements.
1870 – African Americans given the right to vote.
1920 – Women given the right to vote.
1947 – All states finally grant Native Americans the right to vote.
1965 – Voting Rights Act bans use of literacy tests and poll taxes.
1971 – Voting age lowered to 18.

As Fatboy Slim once said, “we’ve come a long way baby.” People have campaigned, suffered and died for this right. Wars have been fought in the name of freedom and democracy. It seems like one hell of a privilege to give up. I know I miss my right to vote, especially as I have such strong political beliefs.

Not unlike Woody Harrelson’s character in “Indecent Proposal,” everyone has their price; (although I would rather sell my vote than do what he did). But in light of recent DieBold news, and an HBO documentary I saw last month called "Hacking Democracy," I have to wonder what has happened to that most precious gift that is your vote anyway.

As Engadget reported in August of this year, DieBold spokesman Chris Riggall explained that a "critical programming error that can cause votes to be dropped while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point" has been part of the software for ten years. So, your precious vote may have been dropped from the system on multiple occasions.

And in “Hacking Democracy ” it’s unveiled that voting machines can be rigged, records can disappear and elections could indeed be miscounted by machines. The security of the electronic voting machines being used today is suspect to say the least, and this is not a partisan issue. Your vote is your vote, and if it’s not being counted, or it’s being manipulated for one party of the other, does it then open up the debate about selling your vote? If your vote is not as sacred as we once believed, is there less culpability involved in selling that vote?

If someone came up to you tomorrow and told you that you were in a swing state, and your vote was needed to ensure victory for one party, would you consider the offer? Would your vote be up for grabs?

It may be that you were going to vote for that party anyway. You may believe that one vote doesn’t actually make a difference. Or, you may just think the whole system is screwed anyway, so why not profit from it? And just what would your price be?

In these tough economic times, I’d be tempted if someone waved $5000 hard cash in front of me and asked me to vote a certain way (if, of course, I had a vote to sell). But as there’s no way to prove who you voted for anyway, would you then just give your word that you’d vote for one party, and then vote for the other anyway? Or would you just say no?

It may all seem like rhetoric, but it did actually make the news in July of this year. CNN reported that “University of Minnesota student Max P. Sanders, 19, was charged with a felony Thursday in Hennepin County District Court after allegedly asking for a minimum of $10 in exchange for voting for the bidder's preferred candidate.”

And this got Sanders into more than a little hot water; “Sanders was charged with one count of bribery, treating and soliciting under an 1893 state law that makes it a crime to offer to buy or sell a vote.” He tried, he failed, he says it was a joke. Maybe it was, but it still leaves the question hanging in the air…would YOU sell your vote, and if so, what would your price be? Over to you.

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Guest's picture

It obviously depends on the price. If someone offered me $1 million, I would definitely do it. But the likelihood of getting that much money for 1 measly vote is ridiculous. I would not sell it for $10 or the like. I'd probably be seriously swayed around the $1000-$2000 mark.

Now regarding the electronic voting machines... I bet they'd get paid quite a bit to change a vote. Knowing what I do about programming (I'm not a programmer by profession but have made a few apps in the past), just tallying up votes for a bunch of people is not the most complicated thing in the world. In fact, I could make an app in 10 minutes that would successfully and accurately tally votes with virtually no chance of error. The only issues with such machines is making sure they can't be hacked which does present a small challenge, but not enough to create the doubt that has been created thus-far. I really don't understand why there are so many issues with such machines. This isn't that complicated.

Guest's picture
wildgift

Keeping a system from being hacked is inherently difficult. It's not the small problem you say it is.

The problem with the GEMS system was that the database files were regular JET database engine .mdb files. There wasn't a strong "key" system where only the GEMS application could read and write data these files. So writing a hack was feasible (and it was done).

What GEMS could have done was create a special, secure file system that exists as a file on the hard disk. Put the database in there, and the secure file system would have to be mounted, with a "key" of some kind, before it could be used. The filesystem could have restrictions on the number of connections, what apps could connect, and could also log transactions or other things to improve security.

This would have been complex.

Guest's picture

My price would be about 5 grand. Republican party, take note.

I'm registered green right now and I usually vote third-party. I'm joking about ever selling my vote, but you never know. I guess it would really be hard to do, but part of me doesn't have any faith in the system to begin with, so...

Guest's picture
A

Hope you're kidding about this.

Paul Michael's picture

but not encouraging people to sell their vote either. It's illegal. I'm just asking the question...would you, and if so then for how much? Some people clearly would, others like yourself would not. It's a simple debate starter, like saying "would you kill Hitler before he rose to power, if you had the chance."

Guest's picture

My first thought was that I'd only "sell" my vote to the party I wanted to vote for anyways. But then...if someone I supported was going around trying to buy votes, well, I wouldn't want to support them anymore. So maybe I'd "sell" my vote to someone I would never vote for, and then just vote the way I was going to anyway. Or are you saying they'd be in the voting booth with me?

I'm almost certainly going to vote for a write-in candidate, and that's been my feeling for many long months. Lots of people hear that and tell me I'm throwing my vote away anyway. So maybe my vote is the sort that ought to be bought, if any votes at all are to be bought.

In any case, it would have to be a *very* substantial sum of money (7 figures, at least) for me to even entertain the notion. I think I'd have to turn it down in the end though. Then I'd report the would-be vote buyer.

Guest's picture

wildgift,
The big thing about hacking the machines is how do you actually pull it off?

Do you do it in transit between the voting booth and the central voting office? If that's the case, it's not much different than throwing away paper ballots for a particular party. In such a case, there is no possible way to prevent fraud whether it be electronically or paper.

Do you do it at the machine itself? This seems really difficult. You will need some sort of access to the machine (which should be locked away from the touch monitor anyways). If you do get access to the machine, you need to hack it without anybody noticing. I'm not sure how it is everywhere else, but when I voted over the last several years, I got this little cubical like thing. It protected people from looking at my votes from the side but the voting people could still see my back. The most I ever got was a little curtain that covered from about the waist up. Being able to connect any equipment to a machine (which again, should be at least locked away a small distance away from the monitor) would draw attention. Now if you got your own little voting room that is away from everyone, then you might have an easier time pulling a hack off, but that's not how it is here.

I don't see any other ways to access the machines unless they are connected to the internet or a network (which they shouldn't be in the first place in my opinion).

All they need to do is have a basic database system with no access to any network and above standard security. The physical machine needs to be located in a separate area (even as simple as a locked metal box with only a hole for the monitor cable). Then at the time of the polls closing, they need to be able to unlock the box, put the hard drives in a new machine which will print out the total results for that precinct as well as save the results to a DVD. This way with 3 separate "paper trails" that they can spot discrepancies in the results and possible hacks that might occur between the voting booth and the central voting office. The only possible hacks could occur by the voting personnel during the transfer of Hard Drives and even this could be solved by locking mechanisms which don't release except when inserted into the master machine via mechanical means rather than electronic means.

Another great solution would be to use a write-only media such as a DVD-R. This way, no data can be deleted, only inputted. Than, the data can at least be cross checked with the number of people who actually walked into the voting center. If there was an extra 1000 votes, than a re-vote can be issued or something similar.

No plan is perfect, but this would be as good or better than paper ballots. If you think only in computer terms, than anything can be hacked, but when you think in more mechanical terms (like restricting access to the machine or using write-only media) than it opens up a lot more accountability.

Guest's picture
Guest

I would sell my vote because it doesn't mean much to the elections. If I were a member of the electoral college, however, I wouldn't sell my vote because then it would have some meaning.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Wouldn't ever.  Reminds me of Upton Sinclair's the Jungle, where votes were bought and kept the elite in power.  A couple of notes on this hypothetical (and assuming that the bribe was of any significant amount of money):

1.  You have to wonder who would want your vote so badly that they would pay that.  What are they so afraid of?

2.  You would have to consider what kind of power a voter would have that all the dirty politics in the world couldn't muster the same effect as buying your valuable vote.  When you have something that money can't buy -- you better hold on to it.

3.  I wonder how many people pondering this hypothetical CAN vote, but haven't even taken the time to register.  For many, it is a vapid point. For the others, like you, they would love the chance to, but can't.  That which we obtain easily we often esteem lightly...

Thanks for the discussion... although I still wouldn't sell myself or my vote.  :)

 

 

Guest's picture

all i know is that neither the GOP or the DEMS talk about the economy in real life terms, we just had another bank to fail. That’s makes 10
its about my pocket – im sorry

Guest's picture
Mary

No, not ever, never. Not for any amount of money. I also refuse to believe that my vote doesn't count. Crazy question. Reminds of all the conversations when "Indecent Proposal" came out. We all agreed we would sleep with Robert Redford for a million dollars. Of course most of us agreed we'd sleep with Robert Redford for free though so it wasn't really a valid argument, but I digress...I'd never sell my vote.

Guest's picture

The reality is that votes are being bought ALL the time by politicians. One example is Obama's plan to give seniors making less than $50000 a complete and total tax break. If that's not policy to target a group of people for their votes then I don't know what is.

Guest's picture
FrugalZen

...to the Highest Bidder but its only Legal if you are an Elected Politician and the only people allowed to be Buyers are callled "Lobbiests".

Face it...would you give up a Multi-Million Dollar a year job to work for a couple of Hundred Thousand as President, Vice-President, Cabinet Member, etc. unless after your term the people you did vote/legislative favors for paid you back with "jobs" that made the Multi-Million Dollar Salary look like peanuts.

The Clintons are now worth How Many Tens of Millions???

~ Roland

Guest's picture
Shadox

I live in California so at least as far as my Presidential, Senate and Congressional votes go, my vote means nothing. Whether I vote democrate or republican, Democrats will win these elections here. So what do I care? Bidding starts at 1 dollar... :-(

Guest's picture
Hmmmm...

When a candidate spends 3 gazillion dollars on campaigns making shiny promises to me... Rubbing me the right way so that I am lead to believe that if he wins, I will get all those great benefits, my taxes will magically evaporate, my life will just be awesome...

"The People" still don't get the overall idea that voting is for what's best for the country and not what's best for you.

Extreme example:
Candidate Johnarack Obacain promises that all residents of New Montana state will pay no tax and even get a $5k bonus every year. But at the same time, he will raise the taxes of all the other states to compensate. I'm gonna take a wild guess and say that most New Montana residents will vote Obacain while all other people will vote against him.
We vote for whoever benefits us the most. That is, in my opinion, a form of bribery already.

Only difference is that we don't get the payout.

Kinda like you're being offered a large sum of money to vote for a party (as suggested in this article)... and after you vote... you get no money... in fact, you don't get anything... and you're often worst off than before the vote...

So to answer the question: Yes, but pay first. (Checks need to clear before vote is taken. Will only accept payment from a CONFIRMED Paypal account. Don't try to bribe me from Nigeria, I don't care if you're uncle has $56,000,000 locked in an account)

Guest's picture
Don

>>1947 – All states finally grant Native Americans the right to vote

I found this both comical and sad at the same time. Kinda like going into someone's house and barring them from having some of the dinner they cooked.

Guest's picture
Ritchell

it's likely that other people would be offered a similar incentive as well. Given the disenfranchisement of many voters, along with someone else's previous answer, I could see $1000 swaying many people. Given the approximate $65 million cash on hand that Obama has, or $30 million for McCain (http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/), that lets either one buy tens of thousands of votes without having to campaign for them. At that point it begins to matter whether an individual would sell his or her vote.

Guest's picture
Guest

Hell yes--i don't plan on using it anyway--it seems like democracy has become passe. its about celebrity, power and money (maybe it always has been, but it seems to have evolved to a vulgar sport).
If some dweeb pencil-pushing bureaucrat wasn't lying in the weeds to arrest me I'd do it, thank you very much.
Osama, McCain, doesn't really matter...

Guest's picture
Guest

How much are you offering?

Guest's picture

Buying votes outright with your own money is illegal. I can't say I'd give you $1K to vote for me and then write a check. But I can promise to give you $1K after I've been elected and pay you with taxpayer money. Watch both of the big US presidential campaigns and you'll see one overt pitch after another to various population segments.

Political campaigning is the ultimate marketing project. Splice up the population into manageable voting blocks based on whatever demographic characteristics you think you can efficiently exploit. Then go about shamelessly promising them whatever they want to hear.

You'll hear nonsense catering to unions about stifling free trade. There'll be talk of giving seniors more prescription drug benefits. And of course it makese a ton of sense to promise EVERYONE energy "tax credits", in the form of $1,000 by Obama. What a great way to promise a little something to everyone...no need to offend a minority group. [Note I put "tax credit" in parenthesis since ~ 40 million Americans will receive a direct subsidy since they don't pay taxes in the first place].

Buying votes is shameful, but that's the natural devolution of politics in an unconstrained Democracy. Society needs to be strong enough to say there are limits to government scope of authority and such gifts from the public treasury are illegal.

Guest's picture
Guest

Sorry but thats the problem now, tax payers constantly being used. The US is the worlds cash cattle, we are charged higher royalties and everything. 300% for flat screen tv's while Brazil pays 0%. We will have to go back to the barter system and farming more, because food, water, and shelter are bare necessities.

Guest's picture
Wilson

Most people sell their vote already for tax cuts that are paid for with borrowed money. If you think you can redistribute the tax burden so that you never have to pay for your own tax cut-- you must be wealthy.

If it weren't illegal I'd be surprised if any of the above posters would actually turn down $200. You're naive if you think your vote will matter in a two-party system. The real question is who would pay you anything, since voting must be secret, and you could easily pocket money from all the candidates.

So you could hypothetically have my vote for $100. Since the other party would also be giving me $100, this would give you an even chance in a coin toss, which would benefit you if your a long-shot. If the voting system allowed me to cast a vote of "none of the above", my vote would cost a good deal more.

Guest's picture
Joy

Seeing as how I don't see a clear personal choice among the presidential candidates this time around, I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't consider selling my vote to someone who did have a preference.

Guest's picture
BonzoGal

No. Never. No way, no how, precisely because of how hard my foremothers fought for my right to vote. I know there are people out there who say that my vote doesn't really count, and that I'm naive to think it's worth anything, but they've given up and I haven't.

So no. My vote is my voice.

Paul Michael's picture

that although it's just one vote, they all add up. There's a proverb that says something like "the longest journery starts with just one step."

Guest's picture
Guest

Since politicians regularly sell their votes and for hefty sums (nevermind their souls). why can't i have the same privilege. why is it that government officials and politicians are allowed to make a profit selling out the USA, whats wrong with me trying to get in on the action?

Guest's picture
Oscar

So may I ask you this: How much are the lives of our forefathers worth to you? What would your price be? How much would you sell out this great Nation for?

It incenses me just thinking that some of you may entertain the notion... Whether or not you agree with any of the politicians (I don't), whether or not you believe your vote matters, that right to vote and that right to live in this Nation came at a terrible price. To me, as broken as our system is, I'd gladly give my life to defend it, rather than live under some other system on this earth. Our system isn't great, and isn't getting any better no thanks to soulless politicians on both sides of the fence... but I believe it's better than any other system out there.

Keep your money, all you who are corrupt enough to even think of cheapening my vote. It's just money. Money can be replaced; our rights are much harder to replace.

Voting is a privilege not to be taken lightly. If you're willing to sell your vote, feel free to leave and go to a nation where your vote won't count.

Guest's picture
Kellye

My "forefathers" were not citizens of this country. They were Irish, and they only came here out of desperation, not desire. The peeps from the American Revolution hold no bearing with me whatsoever.

Taxation without representation is exactly what is happening in this country right now. I pay taxes to bail out the rich, foster graft, and keep the poor in an ineffectual, perpetuating cycle of debt and destruction. Do I get a choice where my taxes go? Heck no. Because I voted for the OTHER guy. The people in the government now do not represent my interests, yet still tax my income to the point that I live paycheck to paycheck. How is that fair?

And I don't think our system is better than any other political system out there. In theory, maybe. In execution, absolutely not. I would rather be Finnish at this point, not to put too fine a point on it.

If I could afford to emigrate now, I would. But I can't.

What good is the right to vote when your vote doesn't even count in a corrupted, outdated system? That's like saying you should feel lucky to have the right to vote in a dictatorship, but you still only get to vote for one person...

I will be voting one more time though, and hope my choice has the power to get America out of this mess before it's too late. If not, I will be in Canada before the next four years are up, faster than you can say Ontario.

Guest's picture
Guest

i have left the country.

i have never voted.

please read article 31 this thread.

it makes no difference to me who runs america.

i just want to know if the vote is mine to do what i like with. can i give it to another?

i know people died to get us the vote,, if people today want to sell their vote because they don't care which party is in power then what LAW do they break.

i'm more curious than serious... i don't want to listen to thepoliticians any longer.. if you want my vote pay for it, if you want me to attend a meeting and listen to you then pay me for my valuable time.

if there are conditions attached to my vote then state them clearly before i accept the conditions and the vote.

BUT, if we sell our vote (or give it away) then don't ever complain about policy or government.

yours sincerely

citta dhammo

Guest's picture

I actually put more thought into thsi and realized that the price for my vote is the freedom to have an abortion if I choose, and the possibility that my tax money will begin to pay for my medical coverage.

So I guess the republicans can't afford me, after all.

Guest's picture
Guest

Unfortunately, our representatives in Congress have been selling their vote to lobbyists for a few decades now.

Guest's picture
Kellye

I have roughly forty dollars to my name after paying my bills this week. That does not include gas or groceries, just rent and utilities. I have $16 dollars in my savings account and almost $1,900 dollars worth of credit card debt.

I can't afford groceries of any kind on this paycheck, so I'm going to have to eat rice, ramen, and any other canned goods I can scrounge out of my pantry.

I don't work a minimum wage job. I make $36,000 dollars a year. And I *still* live hand-to-mouth. Needless to say, the national economy scares the bejeezus out of me, even though I work in the defense industry.

So would I sell my vote, even though I think the current regime is unbelievably corrupt? Absolutely. $2000 bucks would be my price I think. Enough for me to pay off my debt, buy milk, and buy gas.

At this point I can't really afford political ideals...

Guest's picture
Guest

I saw the link and was interested in the legality of a persons right to sell his vote>

I HAVE NEVER VOTED

i am more interested in the actual right to choose>

if its my vote then why cant i sell it?

does my vote come with conditions?

i am willing to sell my vote for one cent in next election>

i could auction it but the price is unimportant>

if i dont care who runs the country then i am willing to sell or give it to someone who is

( IF POSSIBLE THEN BLOCK VOTING IS THE WAY TO GO )

AREN'T THE POLITICIANS OUT THERE NOW TRYING TO SELL?

i live in thailand and the vote buying is pretty blatent

if there is a law against selling your vote then i would lik to challenge the law.

all i need is a buyer who is willing to do this..

i just want to know if its really my vote to do with as i choose,

i am not a prankster and any legal advice on the matter will be accepted with thanx....

i'm just someone who is willing to be a test case for others who have something to lose.... i am planning to do this in the United kingdom also as i am a dual citzen.

this may be a hypothetical situation at the moment but if my vote comes with conditions attached then i would like those conditions explained to me... something that is not being done as far as i am aware.

yours,

cittadhammo

Guest's picture
Guest

Damn right I would sell my vote, its hard to decide who to vote for with all the dirt they seem to get into, so why not go for the one willing to pay for it? Its funny to consider it illegal when these people do so many other crooked things, George W. Bush isn't in jail for starting a feux-war business venture and Cheney collecting our tax dollars by providing contracting services for someone else's country and Louisiana still looks like 100lbs of poop in a 3lb bag. (HA!)

Can't forget what George W. Bush said:
"Forget about Afghanistan, let's overshadow it with Iraq so my former business partner (The Bin Laden Family; also resided in Texas) and my initial campaign contributor (Osama) can get away with killing the American people (we will go after them don't worry, but we will give him a 2 week head start to get away). ..............Ok my Presidency is over...no matter what you all say, (i'm filthy stinking rich, you're NOT and) its not my problem anymore."

(People supported him thinking it was the Patriotic and "White" thing to do, and it rocked our Nation, do we enjoy struggling and losing houses, watching all these empty condo buildings occupy space because people can't afford them? Hell no, so whats selling a vote?)

A vote being sold versus a President and his comrades scamming Americans, isn't so bad. He is still making money off of this FCAT (Jeb Bush makes money off the TCAT) crap thats pissing on students who fail it (even if they've gone through k-12 with a 4.0gpa).