Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
News 208

GMontag writes: "Actually, this idea came up on the H2K mailing list a few months ago. A Wired story covers James Baumgartner's idea of the same thing. James is an MFA student at Albany, N.Y.'s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Basic idea, auction off write-in ballots to the highest bidding special interest group (not politician, read the article). The voters fill everything out themselves and they go through a service to check if the vote was cast "properly". Pretty nifty idea and keeps with the tradition of George Washington of Va., The Hon. Richard J. Daley of Chicago and Cas Walker of Knoxville, Tenn. Research of the last 2 men is an exercise left to the reader. If you were planning on skipping your vote this year, perhaps you can pocket a few bucks instead."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Comments Filter:
  • Well the coming of age thing is a big problem in my opinion. After all, kids pay sales taxes but--while they derive some benefits of taxation, i.e. school--they have no governmental representation... Which I (as one of the precocious) always thought was a serious violation of civil rights. But who's gonna stick up for a 15 year old? I mean, they can't even vote!
  • CNN [] is running a story [] about a citizen of Maryland who has put his vote up for auction on E-Bay. The article includes some insight into the laws surrounding such an act.
  • Well it`d be nice to think that there could be a society where people could get on with their lives and politicians would genuinely be doing the tedious stuff thats needed to get trains running, roads cleaned etc. I think we`d still need people to oversee all that...

    but i`m not really up for a `putting the world to rights` thread right now... arent there drug sites that deal with this sort of thing. "if i were prime minister i`d...."
  • As for the fact that the person who raises the most money often wins. Well, with our current fund raising laws, this shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, with a cap on the amount an individual can give the politician with the most money generally has the most supporters.

    Are you talking about America? If so, you are forgetting about soft money. IMO a soft dollar is probably worth 90% of a hard dollar due to the effectiveness which you can use it in broadcast advertising.

    *shrug* Thats all...

  • and for God's sake, don't vote!

    Don't worry, I won't. That was the whole point of my post - that voting is useless because every politician once elected completely discards his or her conscience on the altar of reelection. So instead of standing up for what's right, they focus on two things: raising enough money for the next campaign (basically, accepting bribes), and making sure they keep the support of the biggest voting blocs (generally, by casting votes according to polls, when they don't contradict the bribes they've taken).

    This is a crock. I won't vote until meaningful reforms are implemented; namely, one-term-only for all offices, the prohibition of lobbying, of political contributions by corporations (for-profit or not) and of total political contributions exceeding $1000 per individual in any given year, and life in prison at hard labor for anyone who violates these terms. Yes, I realize that in many jurisdictions these changes would require constitutional amendments. So what? The current system in this country (and most others) is a farce. I don't expect integrity from politicians because not one this century has ever demonstrated knowledge of the concept.

    I fail to see how believing as I do means I have no integrity, but if that's what you choose to think, I won't try and stop you.

  • Let's go back to America, after the Revolution.

    Our FIRST Constitution was the Articles of Confederation, linking 13 independent states into a broader Union, while maintaining local sovereignty. That principle remains in the current Constitution of 1787. . . .add to that the fact that several sovereign nations voluntarily joined the US: the Republic of Texas and the Kingdom of Hawaii come to mind. . . .

    These are NOT superficial differences. . .

  • Our democracy is already being baught and sold, We might as well be the ones getting the money :). I doubt it will work, though (except maybe in key, close states...) its probably cheaper to buy america in bulk then each individual person...

    One could say the labour unions have been doing something similar to this for a while, and maybe the Christian Coalition as well.
  • Alright so people bitch and moan about how lobbyists and money skew politics. Well if the voter was paid directly for voting this problem would be exacerbated by a very large factor. I don't see paying voters as part of the solution. Besides how much could political organizations (or lobbyists) actually afford to pay the voter? I think it would be *really* *really* sad if the only way a voter would come out and vote is to be bribed, and our society deserves to go down in flames if it comes to that (after all, they all do eventually). Haven't people seen what the evils of corruption do? Look at law enforcement in almost any latin country! Been there, seen that!

    I for one vote on the issues, what a politician stands for, and how that relates to my beliefs. If some piece of shit wants to sell their vote for $5.... and alot of people do that... well then I'm getting the hell out of the US because democracy, the constitution, etc.. is just a joke at that point. I'll go somewhere where people aren't so damn apathetic and self-centered. A place where people who bitch about politics, politicians, etc.. do something about it. With the Internet we can be informed voters. There is no reason to be apathetic anymore. We just need better more useful sites of political information. I don't know maybe at 23 I'm too old fashioned.

  • Actually no. The electoral college does not require a majority of popular votes cast. It does not even require a plurality (more than any other candidate). President Lincoln, for example, was elected with fewer popular votes than Douglas due to the electoral college.
  • If this wasn't illegal, the rich would control the entire government

    It's not illegal and the rich do own the government.

    The only difference here is that the money is going straight to the people rather than the current sysmtem where the corporations pay (buy) the media to brainwash the voter.

  • Sell your vote? Bypass congress? Is this what they mean by cutting out the middleman? You know this will never happen. The congressperson is the only one who is allowed to sell their vote and they have written the law to keep it that way. If you were allowed to sell your vote can you say " campaign finance reform "?
  • Read at VoteAuction []

    Voters involved in the program will vote by mail-in absentee ballot. The completed ballots will be mailed to, where they will be counted, verified and then sent to the appropriate election district. In exchange for voting for the chosen candidate and following the procedure, the voters will receive an equal share of the winning bid for their state. will not receive any money from the auction. The starting bid for each state is $100, with a minimum bid increase of $50.

  • by crayz ( 1056 )
    Yeah, but at least Gore isn't a retard and a murderer.
  • The bullet lives on, at least as part of the hockey logo [].

    Besides, if memory serves me, doesn't the Alma Mater begin "Here's to old R...P...I"?

    - Mark
    Tutescrew victim 83-85
  • Nor a lying, (former) cocaine addict. [] Is Pat Paulson still around?

  • heh, I agree with your last statement
  • Since the universe is highly uncertain, and there are tens of thousands of voters in most democratic elections, the gross expected benefit of voting is damn close to zero already, and the net benefit rapidly turns negative when you incorporate the hour it takes to go and vote, the gas for your car, the forgone income or quality time with your family, etc.

    Actually, I think you're highly underestimating the effect of one vote. It turns out that it's a tiny chance at a very big change, sort of like a lottery that pays off more than 100%.

    In one of my philosophy courses, we read that some researcher (I forget who) had estimated the odds of one single vote affecting the outcome of a US presidential election to be about 1 in 200 million. But then, that outcome makes a difference to the entire US population, which at the time of the research was about 200 million. So using a risk analysis, the expected benefit of one vote is roughly the benefit of the preferred outcome to one person. Given those odds, I vote.

    Don't fall into the trap of confusing "negligible" with "zero". (Negligible)x(big number) may no longer be negligible.

  • Yeah, that was my Dad's idea... Except why not draft the entire government?

    "Greetings Citizen:
    For the next two years you will serve as your district's Federal Representative. You have until November 8 to report to the Capitol, Washington D.C. Failure to report will result in your being found AWOL and in deriliction of duty..."

    And as for the other bits keeping people from declaring themselves as dictator, just put the appropriate controls in the Constitution. Heck, we'd have to get a few amendments made just to put the system in operation anyway...

    "Citizens have rights. Consumers only have wallets." - gilroy

  • Yeah, I don't disagree with you. I'm not voting for either.

  • by rw2 ( 17419 )
    /.ers sick of the two party duopoly should vote for Hagelin. [] for scoop. He's a Harvard educated physicist and his running mate is an internet entrepreneur.

    What more can you ask for!

    While I appreciate the sentiment behind the story it would be way better to vote for a qualified candidate than whine about how Gore/Bush isn't a choice.
  • Um, no, the post I was responding to couldn't have possible been being sarcastic unless their actual position was 'The idea that money and politics should not be mixed isn't naive.' As any sane person knows, the idea they shouldn't be mixed is naive, ergo, assuming that AC was a sane person (an assumption that is becoming less and less ground in fact on this site.), they were, in fact, not being sarcastic, as being sarcastic is saying one thing to communicate the opposite meaning. As they were saying one thing, and attempting to communicate that exact thing, it cannot be sarcasm. :)

    Maybe you need to learn what sarcasm is too. ;)

    Let me guess, now you're going to claim you were being sarcastic. :)

    Now, it could be claimed the post I responding to parent's post was set up in a deliberate manner to trick people, i.e., a troll. In which case, my original post would have been wrong, as it wouldn't be sarcasm anymore, but a lie.

    -David T. C.

  • I like the last quote in the article

    one of two things would happen. He would either be facing a considerable jail sentence, or he
    would become one of the most powerful men in America.

    This sums it up well. Depending on who he upsets and who he makes rich, he will either go to jail or get very wealthy. I like it, real risk with real payoff, all for calling attention to how corrupt modern democratic politics has become.

    Does anyone remember the greek word for government by money? Specicratic? Does this make the US a dollaracracy?

    the AC
  • I think I have too much free time on my hands.

    -David T. C.
  • Your example requires amoral voters, journalists who don't care, etc. Elections don't take place in a vacuum. Don't you think that someone would smell a rat if $1000 per vote is on the table?
  • If the selling of votes isn't already illegal, it should be. It could cause so much corruption, and it goes against everything we hold democratic

    C'mon, man... that's just your gut reaction. Think it through -- the political system is already completely corrupt with soft money and lobbyists. Do you think it really matters right now who gets elected?
  • That's pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. Duh.
  • Please moderate the parent post (#227) up.
  • This strikes me as an example of a reality hack, in which some slight itch of cognitive dissonance is amplified until it becomes impossible to ignore. It's a neat trick, but there's an art to pulling it off - hard to say whether this one will make the grade.

    Some good examples of this sort of hacking can be found at the Idiosyntactix Culture Jammer's Encyclopedia [] - especially in their Guerrilla Hacks [] and Modest Proposals [] sections.

  • If I were talking about just buying votes directly from undecideds, you'd have a point.

    I'm talking about donating money to groups for use to pay lawyers to fight against certain laws.

    If I had it to give, I'd donate a BIG FAT pile of money to any lawyers who could get FACE declared unconstitutional or Roe v. Wade reversed.

    Lawyers and advertising campaigns are expensive.

  • Well if you read the goddamn article, you'd see that George Washington bought votes with alcohol at one stage of his career...

  • Indirect soft money isn't recorded. Try writing "W" or Gore and get a complete list of who's running issue ads which support them.

    Along a similar line, who do you think destroyed Clinton's health care package? Member of the government? No, the people who purchased and produced the Hellen and John (or whatever there names are) ads.

    Do you think that the producers were repersentative of the general population? Probably not.

    Were they elected? No.

    Did they represent the wealthy interesets of the insurance companies and drug manufacturers? Yes.

  • If the selling of votes isn't already illegal, it should be. It could cause so much corruption, and it goes against everything we hold democratic.

    Some advice: don't read any newspaper articles about campaign finances or lobbyists. It's just upset you.
  • Polytechnic Institute is in Troy, NY, not Albany.
  • by delmoi ( 26744 )
    does it hurt to be so stupid, or were you being sarcastic and me one of the humorless bastards that I hate so much on /.?
  • How can someone use your vote in a way you don't want them to if you authorize them to use your vote? Obviously no one is going to sell their vote on an issue that they find important. So, why not sell it? The person with the most money usually wins anyway... Besides, it's just the Presidential election. The Electoral College decides in the end anyway.

    That said, I'm voting for Brown on the Libertarian ticket regardless of the ability to make a few bucks by voting for someone else.

    What do Libertarians really believe? []

  • (hint: before you go telling me how wrong I am, think about it for a second.)

    Why do people put up these annoying little disclaimers? noone is that stupid
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A lot of people have said "That's sick! You can't buy a vote. It's not democratic. It's not FAIR!" But why are so many people upset at the idea of buying a vote? It's not unusual. It happens all the time.

    Think about how many laws are past that are not in the best interest of the constiuents. When the DMCA was passed did Congressman Joe Democrat or Senator John Republican think, "Hmmm ... This is a good law that will help the citizens of the country lead a better and more productive life?" or was it "Where am I going to put this extra truckload of money the MPAA/RIAA/M$ just brought over?"

    How about the 20 more years extension (after the prior 70 year extension) to copyright laws? Did our representatives think, "Hmm ... I bet this will encourage writers/musicians/artists to produce unparalleled works of art and will raise the quality of life in America." or perhaps "Disney is giving me how much for my next campaign???!!! Woo-hoo! I am going to Disneyland!"

    For the doubters, please read this link [] and tell me if you still think that you can't buy votes in America or that isn't already done by America's wealthiest individuals and corporations.

    A final note. This guy is not actually in favor of selling votes. He's making a mockery of the current system. He wouldn't be offering to buy votes if it wasn't already so ubiquitous. So rather than getting pissed off at him. Why not support him? I can't think of a stronger political statement you could make this November.

    Be sarcastic, be cynical, get even.
  • I'd like to offer $999,999 for your vote this year. How 'bout it? If you can wait till next year I might be able to find some change in my couch to get up to your $1M limit.

    Seriously though, do you suffer from the illusion that your vote, cast as you normally would, is about equal in efficacy to $1M donated to groups working for the changes you want to see? If you agree with me that the $1M would be far more efficacious, then I have two questions for you:

    Where is the "extra value" in your vote that justifies the $1M price?

    What monetary amount, donated appropriately, would you estimate is about equal in efficacy to your one vote?
  • Today roughly the bottom 5th of households by income do not pay Federal tax. Do you propose that households that effectively pay no tax either by credits or by being on public assitance lose their right to vote. Do they vote only in state or local elections if they pay state or local tax? Everybody pays sales tax, does that count? You pay imputed tax on gasoline does that count. Maybe we should give MORE votes according to how much tax you pay? Is that what you propose? That's Uh.......aristocracy. So be prepared to get a t-shirt that says Apre Moi l'Deluge!
  • "It's not illegal and the rich do own the government."

    This is most definitely illegal. Sure, politicians get campaign funding from companies, but for that to be legal, they are required to report who gave them money, and what amount they were given. This info is available to the public, maybe on a web page somewhere? Not sure... Anyway, some parts of the government are controlled by the rich, but not everything. Anyone who actually cares about the way this country is supposed to work will understand me with this, at least I hope.

    Anything that I've missed can probably be answered in the Simpsons episode where they all goto Washington, or the Futurama episode where Nixon gets elected president of earth.

  • Make me an offer.

    I bid one novelty T-shirt, marked "I sold my vote, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

    Despite rumors to the contrary, I am not a turnip.
  • by Hairy_Potter ( 219096 ) on Thursday August 17, 2000 @06:43AM (#849037) Homepage
    See this Salon [] story.

    Make me an offer.
  • It's funny, we elect a handful of people to decide for us, and call it "democracy".

    Don't complain unless you know what you're talking about. The US system is called a "democratic republic" because we elect our representatives and do retain some democratic powers.

    Athens was not only the first true democracy, but the last one of any real size.

    My mom is not a Karma whore!

  • It is appalling to me that after 100+ responses, nobody has addressed the flawed political criticism underlying this criticism.

    So I will.

    The site claims:

    Spending money to influence voters is protected by the free speech clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution. Recent Supreme Court decisions have equated freedom of spending money with the freedom of speech.
    What the Supreme Court has found (in Buckley vs Valeo []), is that that restrictions on political contributions and expenditures "necessarily reduce[d] the quantity of expression by restricting the number of issues discussed, the depth of the exploration, and the size of the audience reached. This is because virtually every means of communicating ideas in today's mass society requires the expenditure of money."

    This is not controversial. It takes money to get airtime, buy ads in newspapers, etc. On these grounds, much of the law was invalidated which was being challenged (the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA), as amended in 1974, and the Presidential Election Campaign Fund Act).

    The Court also found that restrictions on political speech could only be justified by an overriding governmental interest, and that the "appearance of impropriety" in elections was one such interest. And on that basis (badly decided IMO, but WHATever), we have the campaign finance restrictions of today.

    The selling of any vote, or even the appearance of selling a vote, would almost certainly pass muster as the reality or appearance of impropriety. And therefore the government has a compelling interest to stop it, which is the interest embodied in the current laws against selling votes.

    So, this site and anything like it will never be able to hide behind first amendment considerations, rightfully so. And thus the equation made on the site between buying votes and spending on campaigns is fundamentally flawed; as a critique of our society it is juvenile.

  • this was done on ebay before. A cnn news story [] described the phenomenom. According to the article, the practise is very illegal.
  • an "Alma Mater" is a school, spesificaly one you've graduated from. For instance, my Alma Mater is Ames HighSchool, and will eventualy be Iowa State. Literaly "mother school", the school you came from

    I think you're thinking of "school song"
  • What, special interest groups can just buy their votes directly now?

    It looks like politicians are becoming a thing of the past.

    -asparagui on #efnet
  • This is different, VoteAuction isn't asking you to send them a blank ballot, they're simply going to make a suggestion of who you vote for and then will send money to anyone who can demonstrate that they have voted for them. They're not buying a vote, just offering a reward.


    • eBay: A guys about to enter the voting station so I walk up and tell him I'll give him a dollar if he votes for BushGore [].
    • VoteAuction: I stand outside the voting station with a sign that says "if you're voting for BushGore, I'll give you $1".

    The trick is, in order to make this look better, VoteAuction has to offer the same reward to voters who weren't previously registered with them.

  • Why bother with the votes in the first place, or even selling votes? Why not just let the primaries run their course and elect their candidates, start them all off with an empty bank account, then give them until November to try to amass as much cash as possible? The IRS already has the means to track all sorts of transactions, we could use laws similar to the campaign funding laws that are in place now to 'prevent' corporations from buying the office. The guy with the highest balance wins!

    At least this would be much more up front and honest than the current system.

    Obviously (I hope) I'm being absurd.

  • The whole basis of voting for a leader is that everyone gets an EQUAL opportunity to influence the final decision.

    Wow, somebody actually believes this. I'm flabbergasted.

    If this wasn't illegal, the rich would control the entire government until some of the middle class and most of the poor realize that a vote is more important than any dollar amount you can put on it.

    The rich don't control the entire government already? Haven't you been paying attention?

  • When I skip sections on the ballot, it's because I don't know the issues, and can't make a stand on them. I like the idea of one person, one vote. Imagine what Microsoft could do with sort of thing.

    If the selling of votes isn't already illegal, it should be. It could cause so much corruption, and it goes against everything we hold democratic.

  • by brandond ( 33418 ) on Thursday August 17, 2000 @07:04AM (#849047)
    From what I can make out from across the pond the Republicans are always trying to bribe you with your own money.

    Not terribly unlike the Democrats who are always trying to bribe voters with their own money. The only difference is the Democrats promise to buy you things with your money, rather than give it back to you to spend or save as you choose. So, I guess it's pick your poison...


  • Actually I did read the article before posting this And the same thing still applies. The only difference is that in this case the person has managed to come up with a minor work around that will keep him from getting caught immediately Overall it's still illegal the person is still basically taking a bribe (cash for vote).
    Our ability to vote is one of the rights and to capitilize on that for cash is just fucking stupid
  • by cnj ( 87028 )

    Probably one of those EMAC [] people.

    (and as stated in first reply, it stands for Master of Fine Arts).

    And we prefer "Rensselaer", the same as they preferred "Digital" to 'DEC'. Don't ask why . . .


  • by lordsutch ( 14777 ) <> on Thursday August 17, 2000 @07:05AM (#849050) Homepage
    This practice is almost certainly highly illegal in most states (and probably in many countries). However, it probably shouldn't be.

    Under rational choice theories of political behavior (see, for example, Downs' An Economic Theory of Democracy), it is irrational to vote if the expected benefit of voting is negative. Since the universe is highly uncertain, and there are tens of thousands of voters in most democratic elections, the gross expected benefit of voting is damn close to zero already, and the net benefit rapidly turns negative when you incorporate the hour it takes to go and vote, the gas for your car, the forgone income or quality time with your family, etc. (Ego satisfaction may have some positive impact, but that's usually offset in most people by the other factors.) It is particularly irrational to vote in the United States, since Democrats and Republicans basically do the same thing once they are elected (take your money/freedom and spend it on their favored groups, without making any real societal changes).

    Exchanging money for a vote changes the equation. People who don't otherwise care will vote because the net benefit of voting will be positive. Smaller groups in society benefit from this arrangement because they can "buy" support from apathetic (or even slightly opposed) voters, if they can translate their passion into money.

    Imagine the following scenario: homosexuals in Colorado want to defeat an "anti-gay" state referendum (this actually happened). Under "non-vote-buying conditions", you get something like:

    • 10% - Adamantly support gay rights
    • 10% - Adamantly oppose gay rights
    • 10% - Somewhat oppose gay rights
    • 70% - Ambivilent; they probably split 35-35
    In this situation, the gay rights people lose (the proposal wins 60-40). (The real vote was somewhat closer, 52-48, but the principle is the same.) Now imagine if the gay rights people gave $10 to anyone who voted against the anti-gay proposal (maybe they get the money from Liz Taylor or something; it's not important):
    • 10% - Adamantly support gay rights
    • 10% - Adamantly oppose gay rights
    • 10% - Somewhat oppose gay rights
    • 70% - Ambivilent; maybe split 50-20 since they get $10 for supporting gay rights (but $0 for opposing them).
    In this situation, the outcome is a 60-40 vote against the proposal, and the gay rights people win by converting ambivilent voters. Of course, the anti-gay-rights people could do the same, but if you accept "passion = $$" (admittedly, an imperfect relationship, but well-evidenced by the Israel lobby and other groups) it makes for more equitable outcomes to groups that genuinely care about the issues.
  • I already know everything. Reading is such an overrated trifle these days. People come to this site to read commentary by such people as me, not to get their daily reading list. What is this, the Oprah Winfrey show?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    From what I can make out from across the pond the Republicans are always trying to bribe you with your own money (wasn't a 20% tax cut their ridiculous promise last time?).

    When ignorant foreigners comment on American politics, it is almost as annoying as when ignorant Americans comment on American politics.

    The last tax cut the Republican leaders pushed for in an election year was a 10% cut. They held their majority in Congress, but actually lost seats, which means they really did not have a clear popular mandate for their reforms like they did in 94. They proposed the cut anyway; it failed to pass. Even if it had passed, a Clinton veto would have prevented it from being adopted.

    This year, Bush (the GOP Presidential candidate) has yet to offer any specific tax cut proposals, beyond a repeal of the so-called "mariage penalty" (the part of the tax code which pushes joint-filing couples into higher income brackets), and a partial privatization of Social Security.

  • What I like more is conditional fractional voting. That's where you get to plug in a part of vote based on other contingencies. Such as if Prop X gets passed by >Z% then I give 0.45 votes for Prop W. Or, I could split my votes into .25 candidate 1 and .75 candidate 2. Or I could save up votes into a vote pool and spend several votes at once apportioned over many different contingencies.

    The idea though of vote auctions seems dangerous. The first thing I'd do is form a VC firm and buy up masses of votes and use them as a more aggressive form of lobbying. I could threaten a candidate with a loss if I didn't get my way where I could control a large percentage of votes that I bought with other people's money. Hell I could sell debt to some third world country at junk bond rates that you would pay for anyway in order to get a tinhorn dictator into my VC vote fund. That way I could get guys like bin Ladin or the Medellin cartel to effectively buy whatever US election they wanted. Now that's Democracy!

    Maybe we can get microvotes for surfing the web. You know - click on this button get .01 votes for Dubya or whatnot. Or in exchange for giving up some private information you get a tiny vote credit. Of course you'd have to sign it away anyway so that Steve Case or somebody could use it however they wanted and they not you could transfer it, etc. just like software licences. But you get the picture. Hell - maybe instead of change back from your purchases you could get microvotes! Whoever gives the best deal in exchange would get your business. The end result is obvious - if people can get enough vote credits together then they can unlaterally make up their own referendums, props and candidates. And since the US's three biggest creditors are Japan, UK and Holland, they could swoop in at the last minute and enact gun control and legalized reefer. I can hear Rush's head exploding now.
  • There's an interesting section of a book called Understanding Democracy [] by J. Patrick Gunning available online. I've listed a part regarding vote buying, specifically, Chapter 5 [].


    It is useful to distinguish two types of vote markets: the market for the votes of legislators and the market for the votes of the electorate. The first refers to a legislator's vote on a law. A legislator's vote may be valuable to someone who stands to benefit or to lose from the law. The second refers to a member of the electorate's vote for a political candidate. This vote may be valuable to the candidate herself or to others who believe they will benefit if a particular candidate is elected. We begin by discussing the market for legislators' votes since this market is more common.

    The Market for Legislators' Votes

    Members of a collective would oppose the buying and selling of legislators' votes. The reason is more complex than it seems. Actually, some members of the collective may anticipate gains from allowing legislator vote-buying because they would expect it to make them better off. Consider a bill in the legislature that would give cash payments to a special group of people, say military veterans. The cash payments are financed by taxes on all citizens. Suppose that the veterans expect that by buying the votes of some legislators, they can cause the bill to pass. Then they might favor a system where legislators' votes can be bought and sold.

    This kind of vote-buying is most likely wasteful. The net effect is to take money away from one group and give it to another group. So there is no net gain in money. Yet resources are likely to be wasted both by the supporters of the veterans' benefit bill and by its opponents. However, buying legislators' votes need not be so clearly wasteful. The bill may be intended to finance an environmental cleanup and the damaged environment may threaten otherwise clean groundwater or be a spawning place for contagious and deadly disease.

    To see why most people would want to outlaw vote-buying, we must put ourselves in the shoes of the people who are likely to lose when others buy votes. Suppose that you expected to be part of the tax-paying group in either of the above cases. To defend yourself against having your wealth taken away, your group would have to bid a higher price for the legislators' votes than others.

    There is a virtual infinity of bills that may benefit some groups at the expense of others. If vote-buying were allowed, many people would want to buy votes to support such bills. In order to defend themselves against losing their wealth, the prospective losers would have to bid against them. We can imagine competitive bidding for legislators' votes on thousands of bills. The result would be a needless waste of resources during the bidding process and, of course, substantial benefits for the legislators.

    If we had some reason to expect that the benefits from the laws that resulted from such bidding would exceed the harm, we might investigate further. However, the main effect seems to be that the legislators would get rich at the expense of members of the collective.

    In short, allowing legislators to sell votes reduces citizens' protection against external costs of collective decision making. Members of the collective hire legislators to help administer the monopoly over force. They expect and want the monopoly to be used only to help supply public goods. To allow legislators to sell their votes would give them a greater incentive than otherwise to use that monopoly over force for other purposes.

    In some countries, vote-buying is not outlawed in the constitution but by ordinarily legislation. Even though legislators would seemingly prefer to allow vote-buying, they have passed legislation outlawing it. The apparent reason for this paradox is that if they did not pass such legislation, voters would vote them out of office.

  • Yes, this is true. Electoral systems give more power to individual voters. The analogy he gives of the electoral college is the World Series. The winner isn't the team that gets the most points in seven games. The winner is the team that wins the most games. How important is one player on the team if it only matters which team gets the most points, and the score is 20-7? Not very. But in real life baseball has game-winning homeruns. A single player wins the game, and thus can affect the Series outcome in a substantive way.

    In sports they do this because it makes gameplay more exciting. With a straight points system, most of the time each point is boring. Only sometimes is it close, and then every point is exciting. With a series, or electoral college type system, there are many more exciting points. Translated into politics, exiciting points means votes that can turn the election, which means more power to the voters.

  • by Ketzer ( 207882 )
    "I suspect if James got the sort of traffic that Napster got, one of two things would happen. He would either be facing a considerable jail sentence, or he would become one of the most powerful men in America."

    And now he's on Slashdot and Wired... heh. He's off to a decent start.

    This actually brings to mind a legal question that most posters probably missed. He's a student at RPI [], as am I. He runs this site from his public web directory on the RPI server, something all students get.

    Now Slashdot has presumably dumped a bunch of traffic on RPI, because lots of people (myself included) checked out his site from the link. The CIS department at RPI is probably looking at their info right now, and noticing an unusual amount of traffic. This will point them to his page, and they'll notice what his doing with it.

    That brings up my legal question, which is:
    Is he allowed to run this business from RPI's server? I'm pretty sure students aren't allowed to run businesses with their student accounts; does he have special permission because this is a thesis project?
  • But if you sell that vote, then your giving someone else a greater influence on the final decision than everyone else.

    My God man, how old are you? 5? Wake up and smell the money, jeezus. You really think this isn't already what happens? That major corporate and lobbying organizations don't already control more or less everything? The only difference here is that votes are being sold earlier in the process than they traditionally have been.

    Quite frankly, I find the concept of buying individual votes to be inefficient. It's much cheaper, and quicker, to simply buy the politicians once elected. Since this is what's been going on all along, it's surprising that anyone would be willing to change it.

    There's no such thing as justice. There's no such thing as freedom. There's no such thing as integrity. The concept of reelection threw those out the window right from the start.

  • Ok, you're a troll, but I'm responding anyway, because you illustrate why this system should not only be allowed, but encouraged.

    The President doesn't create the budget and then spend the money. He has a lot of influence, sometimes to the point of forcing the Congress' hand by claiming 'they shut down the government', but in the end it's always a tug of war. The fact that says that someone has to explain such a simple concept to you (forgive me if you're not from the US), signifies that you don't know enough to vote. You are obviously so confused by media hype that you can be whipped around to believe anything. Why shouldn't you be able to sell that vote to someone who is willing to put their own money on the line? You're not informed enough to weild it properly.

    Democrat, Republican, Liberalist, I don't care. Everyone should be required to pass a test on civil law before they are allowed register to vote. Else, we deginerate into mob rule with debates that go along the lines of :
    R: It's their fault! I'm just President.
    People: Yeah! That right!
    D: Nuh-uhn. It's their fault! We're just Congress.
    People: Yeah! That right!

  • The same in Corsica.

    A headline of "Le Canard Enchaine" (the chained duck, a french political weekly) lamenting the poor turnout in the last elections was:

    meme les morts s'abstenir en nombres
    Even the dead didn't have a large turnout

    the AC
  • Go ahead! Throw your vote away!

    (But seriously, any guy whose supporters beat the crap out of Pat Buchanan supporters at their convention is OK by me. Maybe he'll steal some of Buchanan's precious 2% support.)
  • by PoitNarf ( 160194 ) on Thursday August 17, 2000 @07:10AM (#849076)
    That site makes me sick. First of all this is illegal according to federal law. That site should be down within a matter of days. The whole basis of voting for a leader is that everyone gets an EQUAL opportunity to influence the final decision. If you don't wanna vote, then don't vote. You're just giving up that right. But if you sell that vote, then your giving someone else a greater influence on the final decision than everyone else. And how are you sure that person won't sell the vote to someone else, and they perhaps vote in a way that is unfavorable to you. If this wasn't illegal, the rich would control the entire government until some of the middle class and most of the poor realize that a vote is more important than any dollar amount you can put on it.
  • If you've got the $999,999 right now, I'll take that. By election time I'd have more than $1 in interest.

    Where is the "extra value" in your vote that justifies the $1M price?

    My principle's can't be purchased cheaply. :)

    What monetary amount, donated appropriately, would you estimate is about equal in efficacy to your one vote?

    Good question, I have no answer.

  • Of course, if you say "I go to RPI" people always respond with, "Oh, how is Rochester?". Fools... "Hail, Dear Old Rensselaer" has Rensselaer, no RPI. Written by alumns of '34(1834 or 1934?) "The Fighting Engineers" has both, written by alumns of 1923.
  • You should press ENTER
    After every line and use
    Plain Text formatting.
  • A friend of mine was talking about something like this about three years ago... think of it as "Capitalism meets politics." We (USA) live in a democratic society which promotes a capitalistic economy (or so they would have us believe). Most people feel as if their vote doesn't count or their choices are the same []. So why not be able to do the capitalistic thing and sell your vote?

    Well, if you're not going to vote in an election, you might as well sell it... Sell it to the highest bidder, the special intrest group which you most agree with, whatever it doesn't really matter - you proffit.

    Consider the market, most Americans are apathetic about politics but very interested in the economy. This puts more money in the American workers hand (from selling their vote) and creates an entire new line of work - vote-brokering. Entire blocks of disenchanted voters can be bought out (at a fair price) and sold by these vote-brokers to the highest bidding candidate (well you sold it to them, they can do with it as they please). The neatest thing though? The price of your vote becomes more and more valuable as the election draws closer - and both candidates (or sides to a referendum/whatnot) want your vote more and more as they approach the 51% mark. After that, your vote is 100% worthless.

    You wouldn't have to sell your vote, you could still vote normally - but you would have the option of making some money off your vote if you wanted to.

    So what happens if someone bad gets elected? Obviously they get into office, screw up and piss off the people, and then the people decide to either vote themselves or make sure they sell their vote to any opposing candidate next time...

    Why do I call it Tommunisim? My friend's name is Tommy... and he's grown bizarely adamant about such things...
  • by BaronM ( 122102 ) on Thursday August 17, 2000 @07:16AM (#849096)
    This notion of selling votes deeply disturbs me.

    Politicians of all stripes make campaign promises, including tax cuts or entitlement increases to influence voters to vote for them, which could be construed as logically equivalent to buying votes, but I don't really think it is. Selling a vote would entail voting for a politician for direct personal gain, but voting in favor of a politician who promises a tax cut is a statement on public policy; I doubt many voters calculate out "If I vote for X, I will get 1/280,000th of a 10,000,000 tax cut over 7 years, whereas a vote for Y only gets me 1/280,000 of 5,000,000 over 3 years", and then votes for the politician who is offering to "pay" more.

    I live in Washington, DC, and have watched Congress at work many times. I really believe that most Congressmen are honorable and doing their best at a staggeringly hard job.

    I'm starting to wonder about some of the citizens, though.

  • Suppose it's costing company X A 10 million per year to clean up their toxic waste. They introduce a ballot measure to repeal pollution laws. They pay every citizen who votes for the inititive a $100.00 or $1000.00. No matter what they spend to buy this legislation they will make it up in a few years and thereby provide maximum value to shareholders.
    The citizens vote and pocket their $100.00 all happy and good till the deformed babies show up and they die of cancer.

    A Dick and a Bush .. You know somebody's gonna get screwed.

  • ...Richard J. Daley, mayor from 1955-1976...

    Isn't this where we get "Vote Early, Vote Often" from?

  • There are no references.. I was trolling the troll, trying to incite a flamewar of sorts. ('streetlawyer' happens to be one of the trolls around here, and known by many other names.)

    He knew perfectly well which Daley had been meant, and I needed fuel for the 'fanatic pro-Boss' to counter me with, so I claimed he had been indicted, which I knew perfectly well was false.

    It's fun if you can get a few bites, pissing one way or another, but apparently he wasn't in the mood and you were too late to get in on the rush.
  • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Thursday August 17, 2000 @08:59AM (#849113) Homepage Journal

    I used to live in Lima, Peru, where they force everyone to vote by fining non-voters. And my naive former self used to think that this was a good idea, but I don't think so anymore.

    You see, in Peru everyone voted, but not everyone took the time to become educated about the issues. Because of this they were easily taken in by the most transparent of lies. After all, the average Peruvian doesn't have the education necessary to make complex economic value judgements. And the average American doesn't either. That's why factors like how tall the candidate is actually matter.

    The secret of the US system is that the fanatics don't have more votes than you do, they simply are more likely to vote. That's why the senior citizen vote is so important. Senior citizens have been around long enough to know that their vote is worth casting. They read up on the issues, and they go out to the polls en masse. Educated people also tend to vote.

    The rest of the populace assumes that their voice can't be heard, and so they whine and complain, but don't vote.

    As for the fact that the person who raises the most money often wins. Well, with our current fund raising laws, this shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, with a cap on the amount an individual can give the politician with the most money generally has the most supporters.

    My personal observation is that Americans that get involved in politics generally realize that they do have a voice, and the people that complain generally don't take the time to vote. The few exceptions to this rule are those that hold opinions that are so unpopular that we all should be glad that they don't win. Even the far out loonies have an influence that is far greater on politics than those that don't vote.

    So vote before you complain.

  • Er, this may be off-topic, but us monolinguists might find the answer very interesting:

    Why on *earth* is it called "The Chained Duck"?! Is there some way to explain this in English that would make the least bit of sense? Or is it just one of those inexplicable idioms that has no meaning?

    Curious Minds Wish To Know!

  • by cnj ( 87028 )

    I'll elucidate my statement.

    Students (alumni): it's RPI (I guess that's been shown already)
    (sad thing is that a rather large number, at least claim, to have trouble spelling 'Rensselaer')

    Admin (but not most of the other faculty, eg. profs): Rensselaer. Just like they are called "Residence Halls" and not "Dorms". Look at the website, 'Rensselaer', the course book? 'Rensselaer Catalog.' I don't know, they think it sounds more prestigious?

    You're right though, they have tried to get everyone to call it 'Rensselaer' instead of 'RPI' with little luck (much like the GNU/Linux 'problem'). I can't see it ever catching on though, as everything is referred to by an acronym (eg. CII, VCC). It's just easier to write and say. 'Sides, it's tradition


  • Voting in person overrides your absentee ballot, so you can sell your "absentee" vote and still vote at the polls for the candidate you hate least.
  • by technos ( 73414 ) on Thursday August 17, 2000 @07:19AM (#849124) Homepage Journal
    The current mayor is Richard M. Daley. He made specific and careful mention of Richard J. Daley, mayor from 1955-1976, who was indicted twice on vote rigging and accused of racketeering.

    Next time, pay attention before you flame on.
  • The electoral system has several benefits. It gives political power to small states and increases the probability that some candidate will have a majority of votes.
  • Why did I put my vote for sale [] on ebay? It was a statement. That statement being that I see a great deal of hypocrisy on the part of the Republican and Democratic parties as relates to vote fraud. Don't call the people who bid on my auction "bidders", call them "lobbyists". If it's wrong for me to engage in the satire of acting as if I'm going to sell a vote on the internet, why is it not also wrong for our politicians to represent large corporations at the expense of their constituents? I'm sick of the two-party system. They're both beholden to corporate interests, and they don't represent anyone but their big-money masters. The Attorney General's office hasn't contacted me yet, but then again, the CNN story only broke last night. Vote Nader!
  • At the moment such companies simply buy the elected representatives -- very few issues ever reach a public ballot (at least here in Australia).
  • Better put: Don't give up because you think you'll have no effect on the outcome, give up when all the outcomes are effectively the same.
  • It's much cheaper, and quicker, to simply buy the politicians once elected
    Yes, but some politions need to be bought on each individual issue -- much better to get "a sound man" in in the first place. (Also, I once read that some politions have a concience. Probably Vets in their first term, or similar)

    Also, if you think this is the "Most disgraceful thing on the web" you're seriously deluded. I'd easily put hate sites and child porn ahead of this.

  • The problem is that the people's voice is wasted on selecting one specific representative with a set of opinions. You get a bundle, some parts of which you might not want. Much better to use modern communications an let people register their position on each issue, should they wish to.

    And before you say this is impractical, what if each locality has a secure (I know, I know) website where issues up for discussion were listed up to a month before the decision was to be made. Voters could skim through the list and simply check yes or now -- it would take maybe 30 minutes a month and could be done from any PC.

  • What monetary amount, donated appropriately, would you estimate is about equal in efficacy to your one vote?

    Good question, I have no answer.

    I reckon that that it costs about $100 to buy one otherwise undecided vote for a coming election. A $1m advertising campain would hope to capture at least 10,000 votes. $50m in campain funds should score half a million "fence sitter" votes.

    Now, I'm just pulling there numbers out of my ar.. hey hey! but I reckon that every $100 you donate to an organisation you support will help them gain 1 vote in the direction they'd like.

    However, if someone actually comes up with some justifiable figures I'm more likely to make donations (based on the figures) to groups I agree with than sell my own vote.

  • It's interesting that simultaneously invoke the Constitution and defend Medicare and public schools, seeing as how the Constitution grants no power to the federal government to be involved with health care or education.

    While I don't believe additional restrictions should be put on who can vote, it is a real problem when people who pay little or no taxes have no reason to vote against more expansive government spending; after all, it (seemingly) costs them nothing. The solution is to have firm limits on what government is allowed to do; the Constitution was supposed to accomplish this, but it has been increasingly ignored.

  • Ebay yanked [] the bid. Probably because it's, um, election fraud.


  • I'm not going to pretend to be knowledgeable in the arena of election laws, but I definately have feelings on this topic.

    If you're clueless enough to sell your vote for $10-$50, you're precisely the type of moron who SHOULD NOT BE VOTING.

    If it would take less money to buy your vote than it takes to go to a ticketmaster promoted concert, your vote would be meaningless anyway.

    This year for example, It would take no less than 1 million dollars to buy my vote. Is this hypocritical of me? I don't think so. Why? Because that amount of money could assure that I could donate enough to help get things done about the issues that are important to me.

    So, sure I'd vote for cantidate X but I'd give several hundred thousand to group Y, so that they can fight for issue Z.

  • The idea that "spending large amounts of money to compaign among a group of people is the same as paying each person in that group a fixed amount of money" is completely false. Buying an individual vote--even if it's done in a group setting--is still against the law.

    The entire argument breaks down when you consider the fact that politicians spending their vast war chests aren't assured of anyone voting for them because of it. This website, on the other hand, is like a legally (or illegally) binding contract to pay you $X for your vote.

    Does our current political system pander to the rich corporations and special interest groups? Yes. Is that wrong? Maybe. Does it have to? No. How much does it cost to setup and list a few pages stating where you stand on the top 20 issues of our time? Not much. How much does it cost the average citizen to visit that site (and and make an informed decision? Not much--maybe a trip to the local library at most.

    But are politicians going to objectively list where they stand? No way! Someone might actually--God forbid!--vote with their mind instead of their gut feeling if they did that. *gasp* So instead they build up massive amounts of campaign cash and flood your every aural and visual sense with their propoganda. The current system is where it's at because the voting populace is stupid and politicians cater to their stupidity.

  • by haystor ( 102186 ) on Thursday August 17, 2000 @06:52AM (#849171)
    Money and politics should not be mixed. It could severely undercut the workings of our free society.

    Wait a second...

  • Justice and freedom and integrity only happen with _effort_. To believe as you do would make these things by definition impossible- thus making the argument meaningless. I'm not sure where you get this notion that making a meaningless argument means you win it...

    In short: like hell there's not. You're free to argue that you have no sense of justice, no freedom, would not give others freedom, and that you have no integrity. I believe you, I do! Now please go play somewhere else- and for God's sake, don't vote! You would not legally be allowed to vote in Vermont as you'd be asked to agree to a statement that contradicts your philosophy completely and demands that you have integrity. Here's hoping you're not allowed to vote anywhere else either, unless you get a clue.

  • Maybe this will force an overhaul of elections in the United States!

    How ridiculous is it that we still use electoral votes? My representatives no longer need to ride a horse and buggy to Washington, D.C. to cast their vote!

    Let's cut out the middle men, use the internet, and most importantly -- count every vote directly. A popular vote, without party and state lines, is the only fair way to elect a president. (Otherwise the third parties are never going to have a chance.)

    Hey, while I'm overhauling politics, let's kick out the legalized bribes (lobbyists), too!

  • Very good!. I have though of the following.
    We have three born again christians and an orthodox jew running for president. No matter who wins it going to be a bad time to be a moslem or gay. Nader is the only secular cadidate running for president and the only president who won't be prejudised against people of differing religions.

    A Dick and a Bush .. You know somebody's gonna get screwed.

  • I will not vote for that green monkey. Harry Browne is the only one who would change the system for the better. I refuse to live in a socialist regime.

    This is a good part of the reason why third party movements fail: even if the people who don't like the current system and have enough passion to do something about it amount to 15% of the population, we are so hopelessly fragmented into different groups that refuse to come together for the purpose of pursuing the areas that we share in common that we fracture our support and each end up getting 1-2% of the vote. The circus in Long Beach was a good example of that --- why fight with the enemy when you can fight with yourself?
  • Politicians of all stripes make campaign promises, including tax cuts or entitlement increases to influence voters to vote for them, which could be construed as logically equivalent to buying votes, but I don't really think it is.

    Currently, votes are bought, not sold. The difference? More money for TV ads, pins, campaign signs, travel expenses, hired consultants, surveys, etc. all gets you more votes, regardless of your stance on the issues. David Duke would get more votes if he put up a bunch of TV ads than if he didn't. So people who contribute money to a political campaign are buying votes for the politician-- that's the whole point. Your point about people not being able to calculate about issues-- that's also the point. Most people don't care about most issues. They pick one or two like abortion, and then they go with hearsay, charisma, who their friends are voting for, and so on and so forth.

    The great thing about VoteAuction is that now people can see a direct benefit from their bought vote. Previously, all they got out of all this campaign contribution money was a bunch of stupid TV ads. Now, they get money in their pocket. I, for one, wouldn't miss the stupid TV ads.

    "I'm for education, and against crime! I like kids. Vote for me."
  • For those confused I believe the point is to highlight what politics has devolved into. Of course it would be outrageous to do such a thing, but essentially the same thing is being done by big corporations pouring money into the system. They're blatently buying legislation and blind eyes, and politicians are even brazenly attesting to this.

    Might as well throw the voters a few bucks for the reaming we're getting, right?
  • A politician sends a team to my town to collect demographics and schmooz the owners of the local media outlets. They pick a subject that polls well in the area with the people *and*, (this is the real key) a topic that has a lot of money surrounding it. (IE:"down with healthcare" is bad because there's nobody with enough money to pay the politician to shut up but, "down with managed healthcare" is good because there are companies with enough money to shut the politician up).

    The people get all worked up in a tizzy and "demand leadership on the issue".

    Then the soft bigotry of the 30 second spot begins. In "old media" such as newspapers, it's commonplace for the papers to announce to all their readers who they support in an election. This allows the reader to regard the content they read with a better understanding of the papers point of view and 'take it with a grain of salt'. There is little such disclosure on the part of the local and national television media.

    When the politicians team comes to town and wants to buy up every other 30 second advertisement on "CBS Action 4" in the first week of november (the last week of the election) the sales manager makes a decision that effects his or her viewers without disclosing the why and for how much. Are you watching wall to wall Quayle 2000 adds because:

    1) The local station was on the verge of chapter 11 and this sale saved the station?

    2) Nobody else offered to buy the spots and without this sale, they would have been filled with PSAs?

    3) Quayles apposeing candidate offered twice as much money to run her adds in those same spots but, the station sales manager is banging that hot chick who works for the quale media team?

    4) The station owner plays golf with a lawyer who made a mint off of quayle?

    5) Everybody at the station just likes that quayle guy?

    In the process, the media makes millions off of campane financing (ever notice how television reports of campane finance reform talks about how they raise their money and never on how they spend it?) to show you adds you don't want to see and to further suppress voter turnout in the country.

    So there you sit, getting "educated on the issues" by anoying adds in the middle of The Simpsons. So somebody brought up the idea that the same 'media team' comes to town and gives the money directly to the people casting the votes? If it means cutting out the media middle man, I'm all for it.

  • by kzinti ( 9651 ) on Thursday August 17, 2000 @06:54AM (#849196) Homepage Journal
    You're wrong about Daley. Unless this guy's plan calls for hiring necromancers and ISPs to raise the dead and hook them up with Internet accounts, he can't hold a candle to the creative voting that (is said to have) supported the good Mayor's election bids. The Graveyard vote was supposedly Daley's strongest demographic. Mere buying of votes is expensive and inefficient in comparison: it requires that you actually find the people willing to sell their votes and that you actually pay them money. The Dead, however, can be recruited quickly by a visit to the local County Records office, and rarely ask for so much as a thin dime in return for their votes. So to compare this student to the great Richard Daley of Chicago is really an excercise in futility.

  • Blasted polititions can't do anything right its time we take over, I hearby nominate our most frequent poster for president.

    Anonymous Coward 2000!!!


    If you can see whats wrong with this it just means your smarter than the "MAN" and therefore should rule...

Vax Vobiscum