Except for the utterly naive and willfully ignorant, we all know that there are people in our country seeking devious ways to cast fraudulent ballots. The only real question is: What is the extent of the mischief?
Four years ago I lamented that despite today’s awe-inspiring technological achievements, we have yet to devise a way to insure the integrity of electoral ballots in the U.S. If anything, it appears that technology is finding new ways by which to compromise that integrity and subvert the Constitution.
The Christian Science Monitor reported last week that a technique known as “vote swapping” – first pioneered in 2000 – has experienced a resurgence this year.
What happens is that websites and apps “pair voters for a major-party candidate – in most cases, Democrats in blue states [author’s comment: Democrats? Why am I not surprised?] – with a third-party supporter living in a swing state.”
Vote swapping is a “you vote for my guy in your state, and I’ll vote for yours in my state.”
Thus, in a swing state like Florida, a voter who favors one of the third-party candidates would agree to vote for Hillary Clinton, thereby increasing her chances of winning Florida’s crucial electoral votes, while a voter in a heavily Democratic state like California or Massachusetts, where a Democrat voting for a third-party candidate wouldn’t come close to tipping the state to the Republicans and may result in more ballots being cast for the third-party candidates, thereby boosting their profile.
This clever technique appears to be a “win/win” proposition for the vote swappers. I emphasize “appears,” since someone who is willing to cheat the system may be just as willing to cheat a gullible stranger by promising to vote a certain way and then breaking the promise in the secrecy of the voting booth.
Frankly, the whole process stinks.
Offering to buy a vote in another state with your vote in your own state is as debased and corrupt as buying someone’s vote for money, booze, or drugs. Actually, it is worse, because the vote-swapping apps make it possible for one voter to strike a deal for two or more votes in other states, blowing a gigantic hole through the hallowed “one person, one vote” principle. (From what I understand, the apps allow this with the knowledge and consent of all the participants in the scheme, although I suspect that resourceful individuals are working to find ways around that restriction.)
The Founders, wise students of history that they were, abhorred crude majoritarian democracy because of that system’s inevitable fatal descent into social strife and fiscal self-destruction. One of their principal safeguards against majoritarian mobocracy was the establishment of our federal system, by which the voters in states with small populations are not rendered irrelevant by electoral irregularities (i.e., a million illegal votes) cast in the more populous states.
Due to the high stakes of congressional balance, we already have huge amounts of out-of-state money influencing in-state elections, and that may be something we need to rethink. But to go so far as to have out-of-staters essentially buy votes in states where they don’t live and pay taxes seems intolerably corrupt even by today’s loose standards. When the dust settles after November 8, the new Congress should make a priority of banning vote swapping. Such shenanigans are designed to subvert the Electoral College, which, though poorly understood, is one of the bulwarks of the Constitution’s system of federalism that helps to preserve our liberties.
Mark Hendrickson is Fellow for Economic and Social Policy with the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.
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