Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How to buy a vote

The Minnesota recount taught me about the prohibition of distinguishing marks on ballots. The actual relevant provision of statute is:

Subd. 13.Identifying ballot. If a ballot is marked by distinguishing characteristics in a manner making it evident that the voter intended to identify the ballot, the entire ballot is defective.
It's an outdated prohibition. Fortunately, the State Canvassing Board has been pretty liberal about marks, probably relying on voter intent, so that they have been able to count more votes that the voters clearly intended.

The prohibition itself will no longer perform its function, which is to prevent vote-buying. If a corrupt political machine wanted proof that its bought voters did their bidding on the otherwise secret ballot, they needed confirmation in the counting room, and an identifying mark for each voter would do the trick.

Here's an easy new way to buy votes:
  • Require the suborned voter to take a cell phone snapshot of his driver's license in front of the bought ballot.
That should be easy enough to do. Doesn't everyone (except me) have a phone with at least a megapixel these days.

It is true that poll-workers might start to notice all the cell phones out and in use, but polling places are bound to become more like the mall or the roads anyway. The real hindrance to vote-buying is economic. These days, it would just cost too much. Come the next great depression, however, maybe not so much.

I still think it's time to repeal these ballot-spoiling clauses.

Evaluation of Coleman appeals still to come, but I had this in the can already, and I'm probably going to need to refer to it.

Update (9/3/2011): Clarified how identifying marks help vote-buying.

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