The sun's glowing orb had just broken the horizon and was steadily climbing into the sky. I35 was bustling with commuters on their way to their daily doings. I, myself, was headed to my parents' house in Dallas with my girlfriend asleep in the passenger seat. I always like to listen to podcasts to kill the time. The scenery from Austin to Dallas is bleak and I rarely get the time to listen to a podcast uninterrupted. I had just wrapped Joe Rogan Experience episode #1543 with Brian Muraresku and Graham Hancock. It was a fascinating dive into the history of religion. Muraresku had just released a book providing evidence for the use of psychedelics in early Christian ceremonies. Hancock was there to reinforce his arguments with tangential evidence from other past cultures. He wrote the foreword of the book. That episode left me feeling inspired and optimistic until I turned on the next one–Ari Shaffir's Skeptic Tank. Don't get me wrong, I love Ari Shaffir and Skeptic Tank. However, in his intro to the second part of his podcast with fellow Legion of Skanks comedian and Libertarian pundit, Dave Smith, he talks about "trading" his vote to someone who offers him the most value. In fairness, he did not explicitly say: "buy this ballot from me," but continued to say the person who offered the most value would get his say on Shaffir's ballot in New York State. Those who are familiar with Shaffir know that he doesn't shy away from the edge. Just look back at his Kobe tweet. I think he's hilarious most of the time, but this concept of trading and/or selling a vote alerted me to a frightening issue in voting we don't often talk about. Let me be clear, though, I think it's a brilliant idea what he's doing. Shaffir lives in New York City in a heavily Blue state. I could feasibly offer him 50lbs of psilocybin cubensis (that I do not have in my possession 🙂) in exchange for a Trump vote in New York. This revelation immediately seized my mind. What's to stop apathetic voters from across the country to say: "Hey, I'm not voting this year, but I live in a swing state. Buy my vote and make yours count as double."?
Now, when I consider what a vote means, I think that it's an inexorable right of sovereign adults and that they should be able to do what ever they want with it. If an adult human wants to vote red, blue, green or gold, then great. If he or she doesn't want to vote, that's his or her respective right. If they want to leverage it for money in a time of economic depression to pay rent, that's should be within their rights, too. The government–no surprise–does not support this. In U.S. Code 597, it states that:
"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."
You may think that this is the end of it and that this legislation shall stop all buying and selling of votes, but I'd say you aren't living in the modern world. Twice divorced men who over-cologne their Brooks Brothers button-downs leverage sugar baby websites to swoon young, money-seeking women in exchange for "attention" or "just dinner" (right...). If we read between the lines, we can see this is often just a roundabout way to hire a prostitute. It's purely transacting sexual acts for goods, services, or cash. Sure, sometimes a sugar daddy may be looking for companionship or to experience some weird, plutonic, but sort of sexual, father/daughter relationship (shudder) with the women of these apps, but we can assume they're probably also looking to get laid. Let me be clear, I am for the legalization of prostitution. I don't believe it's the State's right to tell adult humans who to sexually associate with even if it includes a transaction. We can take the above example and coin new terms: "Vote Daddy" and "Vote Baby". Vote Daddies (and even Vote Mommies) can leverage their empty ballot for services from a Vote Baby. Maybe it's dinner for two down at Ocean Prime, a Longhorn's game, or even...sex (gasp!), but the legality of exchanging value (like Shaffir mentioned) seems very blurry. Obviously, I can't go on Facebook and say: "I will sell my vote to the highest bidder" and hope that I don't get a knock on my door from the boys in blue. Nor can I say: "I will pay someone for sex." But, given the fact prostitution can operate under a slightly different approach, it's not crazy to think a vote-exchange market can arise.
So why is no one talking about this? This election is the most contentious in years, but has again shown how the Democrats and Republicans put forth uninspiring candidates that drive the will to vote out of thousands of people. Those same people could easily have been hit hard by unconstitutional Covid-19 lockdowns and need a bone thrown their way. Perhaps someone who is a staunch Biden supporter who lives in Ohio sees their ballot as a way to make rent since their bartending job was put on hold for months. I concede that people don't see their votes as a sellable asset. This is fair given the legal restrictions above (which are most likely generally assumed). But what's to stop crafty votepreneurs from finding a roundabout way to monetize their vote? I'm not sure there's much. You may say: "Oh, Andy. Come on, man. This is ridiculous. There's no market for vote selling and a huge minority of votes this year will be bought which effectively changes nothing about the results." I would agree with you somewhat. However, there's never been an election that has been so divisive and in the midst of widespread economic hardship. Much like how a 47-year-old dude with a Ford Raptor and a pilled up teen from a past marriage can entice a lovely young lady with crippling student debt to dinner with an undertone of sexual activity afterwards, voting-age citizens could find a way to get rid of their vote for a price. I say God bless 'em. Before you rage on me for this perspective, understand that I am not going to sell my vote. I know the candidate I want to vote for. Additionally, there will be much more rampant chicanery afoot in this year's elections. It would be ludicrous for me to say that I am pro-humans consensually exchanging sexual acts for fiat currency and say I don't support them consensually exchanging a vote.
Anyhoo, if you're interested in the podcast Shaffir mentioned this in, here you are. I'll wrap this up saying I don't imagine this would have a huge affect on the election results, if any. My interest was simply piqued when I heard Shaffir explaining his thinking. At the end of the day, the Electoral College selects the president. That Electoral College is supposed to be influenced by the will of the people, but as we've seen in past elections, that doesn't net out. How that's supposed to instill a concept of sanctity in voters is beyond me. Thus, I understand those who want to turn their vote into money; especially in a global economic downturn.