Is it legal to sell your vote in the US?
August 12, 2004 11:38 AM   Subscribe

Is it legal to sell your vote in the United States? Since I don't care all THAT much who's president, and I live in a swing state, I was thinking of auctioning my vote off, or forming a syndicate with like-minded citizens to auction our votes en bloc. I mean, either party would get bigger bang for their buck buying 100,000 votes outright for $6 million, than spending the equivalent on hit-or-miss TV advertising.

Faze continues the FPP... I mean, I wouldn't be selling my vote to the candidate personally. Some political action group, or simply a concerned individual of great wealth could purchase my vote. I could auction it on eBay. That sort of thing. What do you think?
posted by Faze to Law & Government (25 answers total)
 
weren't there some web sites doing this last election?
posted by andrew cooke at 11:49 AM on August 12, 2004


This is a crap post. That said, you're way behind the curve.
posted by mojohand at 11:49 AM on August 12, 2004


Other folks have had this idea--the CNN story mentions that people have even put their votes up on E-bay.

If you did try this, apparently you'd be committing a felony in violation of "both federal and state laws", and potentially face jail time. As one guy they interview for the story puts it, when they mention that the subject of the story was actually doing it as a political statement: "I don't care how you couch it. I hope this guy has some good pro bono lawyers backing him up."
posted by LairBob at 11:50 AM on August 12, 2004


I don't see why it should be a crime. It's not like people who "sold" their vote couldn't vote however they wanted to anyway.
posted by reklaw at 11:53 AM on August 12, 2004


if you live in a Diebold district nobody in his/her right mind will possibly buy your vote, swing state or not.

also, I thought at this point you had made up your mind and had decided to vote for Bush because Kerry killed a man. changed your mind? did the guy Kerry killed came back from the dead?
posted by matteo at 11:58 AM on August 12, 2004


Actually, I'm having a hard time tracking down exactly _what_ the crime would be--the news stories I can come up with are all very vague as to the specific infraction.

Nevertheless, I think the real risk is on the other side of the transaction--as I've always understood it, the crime isn't so much selling a vote as it is buying it. I'm sure that there are laws that cover the sale, if someone really wanted to prosecute it, but that's not really what laws and law enforcement has focused on.
posted by LairBob at 12:05 PM on August 12, 2004


Is it legal to sell your vote in the United States?

No.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:05 PM on August 12, 2004


Here's what appear to be the Florida Statutes regarding this:
104.045 Vote selling.--Any person who:

(1) Corruptly offers to vote for or against, or to refrain from voting for or against, any candidate in any election in return for pecuniary or other benefit; or

(2) Accepts a pecuniary or other benefit in exchange for a promise to vote for or against, or to refrain from voting for or against, any candidate in any election,

is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

104.061 Corruptly influencing voting.--

(2) No person shall directly or indirectly give or promise anything of value to another intending thereby to buy that person's or another's vote or to corruptly influence that person or another in casting his or her vote. Any person who violates this subsection is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. However, this subsection shall not apply to the serving of food to be consumed at a political rally or meeting or to any item of nominal value which is used as a political advertisement, including a campaign message designed to be worn by a person.
So, reklaw, it looks like even accepting money and then voting however you please is still a felony, at least in Florida.

Oh, and the choice of Florida as an example was purely serendipitous — it just came up when I typed "voter fraud U.S. law" into Google.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:22 PM on August 12, 2004


As I said, I sort of prefer Bush, but I don't care all that much which guy wins. Thanks to LairBob and mojohand for the links, which clearly demonstrate my lack of originality, but those links don't tell me which particular laws or statues forbid my selling my vote to, say, my next door neighbor, or Barbra Streisand, or some PAC? I mean, I'm not selling it to the candidate himself. What particular law would I personally be breaking if I offered to auction my vote to the highest bidder? Let's get specific here.
posted by Faze at 12:25 PM on August 12, 2004


Johnny Assay, thanks for your answer. That's all I needed to know.
posted by Faze at 12:27 PM on August 12, 2004


it's also against federal law.

18 USCS § 597 reads, in part:

"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."
posted by crush-onastick at 12:32 PM on August 12, 2004


Thanks crush-onastick. I consider the riot act read. The great vote-vending scheme of 2004 hereby dies in the cradle.
posted by Faze at 1:08 PM on August 12, 2004


I don't see why it should be a crime. It's not like people who "sold" their vote couldn't vote however they wanted to anyway.

Adding fraud and breach-of-contract to the crime?
posted by rushmc at 1:35 PM on August 12, 2004


Since I don't care all THAT much who's president

I call troll. The above statement is an impossibility.
posted by PrinceValium at 1:45 PM on August 12, 2004


Then there's also US Statute 542:

"Any moron who expresses the opinion in an electronic forum that he 'sort of prefers Bush' demonstrates a lack of even the most rudimentary intelligence, and should thereby be stripped of the right to vote, for gosh-sakes..."

(sorry... I'm just tired of the lies...)
posted by jpburns at 1:48 PM on August 12, 2004


Woah, what's up with the *f o r m a l w e s t e r n w e a r* textads? Anyone else seeing those? (Yeah, those spurious doublespaces are an attempt to defeat the *a d s e n s e* tech.

I wonder if they make black-tie buttless chaps?
posted by loquacious at 2:10 PM on August 12, 2004


Interesting.

I had toyed with the idea of asking for an absentee ballot and sending it to Antonin Scalia with a note that he should go ahead and fill it out, since he essentially did that for everyone last time anyway.
posted by RavinDave at 2:27 PM on August 12, 2004


Whoa! I asked a sincere question. I got two good answers. That's all I wanted. When I want insults, I'll post to the Blue.
posted by Faze at 3:14 PM on August 12, 2004


(2) No person shall directly or indirectly give or promise anything of value to another intending thereby to buy that person's or another's vote or to corruptly influence that person or another in casting his or her vote. Any person who violates this subsection is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. However, this subsection shall not apply to the serving of food to be consumed at a political rally or meeting or to any item of nominal value which is used as a political advertisement, including a campaign message designed to be worn by a person.

what the heck is a campaign promise of a tax cut then?
posted by juv3nal at 3:51 PM on August 12, 2004


I don't see why it should be a crime. It's not like people who "sold" their vote couldn't vote however they wanted to anyway.

It's wrong because it violates the democratic principle behind an election. Everyone is supposed to have one vote and to vote according to his or her conscience. If you vote the way someone else wants you to, that person then has two votes.
posted by orange swan at 5:58 PM on August 12, 2004


It's illegal, I'm a poll judge, that settles it.
posted by konolia at 7:03 PM on August 12, 2004


So, *my* question is: where did y'all get the impression Florida voters know how to *read*? :-)
posted by baylink at 7:51 PM on August 12, 2004


Sit down think about the number of people who have given their lives to bring about our form of government and a vote for each citizen. Think about the americans fighting against a monarchy so that each person would have a voice and a vote. About Susan B. Anthony sitting in a jail-house after being arrested for voting as a woman, or of King sitting in his prison cell, and later being shot fighting for the same rights that you want to sell to the highest bidder. Think of Harry Moore and his family being brutally killed in their sleep while you search ebay for a price for your vote.

Your vote has a price, and it is high. The cost was paid by the countless people who have stood up to fight for it and been jailed, beaten and murdered. The cost is our vigilance to maintain the rights that they sacrificed themselves for. I really don't care if you want insults or not, when you ask a question like that you show disrespect for those people, and their actions will not be cheapened by people like you.
posted by rhyax at 1:06 AM on August 13, 2004


Adding fraud and breach-of-contract to the crime?

There's no breach of contract, because there's no contract to be broken.
posted by oaf at 5:15 AM on August 13, 2004


When I want insults, I'll post to the Blue.

seriously, this is AskMefi's perfect tagline
posted by matteo at 11:04 AM on August 13, 2004


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