Would you sell your vote?
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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