Re: OVC-discuss Digest on "dumb scanners"

From: Marc Baber <marc_at_botworks_dot_com>
Date: Thu Dec 07 2006 - 11:07:56 CST

Charlie Strauss wrote:
> On Dec 7, 2006, at 1:26 AM, Marc Baber wrote:
>> Even though this plan would allow someone to sell their vote, it is
>> by no means a showstopper.
> Ahem... That is by definition a show stopper.
I would think the definition of "show-stopper" in elections is a problem
that would prevent elections from proceeding at all. If the possibility
of voters selling their votes was, in fact, a "show-stopper", then there
would be no vote-by-mail and no absentee ballots because with both of
these methods a voter can turn in their unsealed ballots, voted per the
buyer's instructions, to the buyer who then confirms the vote, pays the
voter, seals and mails the ballots. Nonetheless, elections are held.
Therefore, by definition, a voting system that has a side effect of
enabling vote-selling is not show-stopper.
>> In Oregon, we've used vote by mail for about 6-7 years now and there
>> have been zero reported instances of coercion or vote-buying,
>> according to our Secretary of State, even though voters have a
>> two-week window between the time they receive their ballots at home
>> and when the ballots must be returned to the Elections Division by
>> mail or at drop-off locations. This is essentially the same as every
>> absentee voting system in the country.
>> I looked at the 2004 Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS) on the
>> web site to see how many instances of voter
>> coercion and vote selling there were.
> Oh come on... The whole reason there is little vote selling is
> precisely because voters can't prove how they voted after the fact.
> That's the exact problem publishing raw ballots creates.
I wouldn't think vote-buyers have much motivation to pay out after the
election is over. I think you're speculating, but if you have data,
please share.
>> Out of over 40,000 incidents nationwide, there were only ten that
>> involved vote buying, selling or coercion. None of these incidents
>> involved absentee ballots and all of them involved regular voters at
>> polling places
> Really None?: then how would you explain this one:
Really. None. The above story, or anything like it, wasn't reported to
EIRS. The tiny company-town, throwback to the 19th century example in
Appalachia is the main kind of exception I'd expect to see-- where a
city-boss can truly make someone's whole life miserable if they
disobey. In most places now people have a choice where they can work,
change jobs about every five years and often don't have a problem
reporting their former employers. I did find the payoff in "beer,
cigarettes and pork rinds" to be a rather sad (though darkly amusing)
statement about human nature. Again, conditions vary from state to
state, so it's possible that the best voting solution will vary from
state to state.
>> I would propose dealing with the threat of vote-buying as follows:
>> 1. Make sure both vote buying and selling are felonies with huge
>> fines and long jail sentences and that all reported instances are
>> investigated.
> 1) It would not be illegal for foreign powers to buy votes.
> 2) the system you propose will allow vote selling in a way that cannot
> be proven after the fact. (one example: go to offshore web site and
> get you special identifier extraneous mark pattern and desired regular
> sold votes. Mark your ballot accordingly at the poll. Go to other
> offshore website later after ballots are published and see if you
> "won" free tickets to the bruce springsteen concert. Since no one
> knows which ballot is yours in the stack it can't be traced to you.)
Actual vote-buying incidents in the EIRS system were very
unsophisticated, immediate cash pay-off arrangements. The profile
didn't seem like the sort interested in delayed gratification.

If we institute a system of rewards for people turning in vote-sellers,
then your idea gives me a great business plan: Set up a web site posing
as an offshore vote-buyer. Collect contact information of
vote-sellers. Gather the evidence of their purchased vote from the vote
scanners and prosecute for profit! Change the web site name every
couple of years and repeat. A few news stories about such a sting
operation should reduce vote-selling from minuscule to nearly non-existent.

>> 2. Nonetheless, always provide amnesty and financial rewards for the
>> "little fish" who come forward to turn in people who bought their vote.
> It's not illegal for foreign powers to buy your vote. So turning in
> vote buyers has no teeth.
True enough. Perhaps in time we'll have prosecution in absentia with
universal jurisdiction as Germany does (the current war crimes trial
against Rumsfeld is an interesting example). If convicted, Rumsfeld
will, presumably, have to stay out of countries with extradition
agreements with Germany.

 Marc Baber 
 The Bot Works, Inc. 
 P.O. Box 5008        Phone: 541-485-8446
 Eugene, OR 97405     FAX:   541-485-8446
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Received on Sun Dec 31 23:17:08 2006

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