Anonymous vote buying

In the not so distant future, it seems possible for an interested party to buy votes for a presidential election on the open market with both sides remaining anonymous. For example, a system could be set up like the following:

Anonymous contributions could be made to a vote buying pot held in an escrow account.
Voters could take a video using a cellphone of them pressing the vote button for the appropriate candidate and uploading it to the internet anonymously with a protected bank account ID.
For every verified vote, a certain amount of money would be taken out of the pot and wired to the bank account as a reward for voting in a certain manner.

Using this, large corporations, rich individuals and party leaders could attempt to buy votes and influence the election in a certain way which would lead to a breakdown of the democratic system. However, I also don’t see a way to prevent this from happening without seriously curtailing privacy and civil liberties.

Is there any way around this dillema?

Don’t allow cell phones in the voting booth?

How are you going to enforce that? It doesn’t have to be a cell phone, anything capable of recording video would do. Assuming these things are going to get smaller and more unobtrusive, it doesn’t seem like a practical solution.

Sending to jail people organizing such schemes? Like for instance the internet site owner, whoever opened the escrow account, people depositing money in the pot after asking the bank to release their identity, etc…I’m sorry, but I can’t see in what way it would be seriously curtailing liberties.

Hell, most people’s votes are for sale, folks tend to vote for the guy they think will screw them the least. Or at least offer something in terms of a reach-around, like shafting whichever minority annoys them, for whatever reason.

When we say “equal rights”, that includes assholes. Can’t be helped, probably shouldn’t be helped.

Because everything is done anonymously. You can’t find out who any of these people are without also making it impossible for anybody to be anonymous on the internet. Check out freenet and a few other initiatives which are trying to make completely anonymous internet content possible.

The content might be anonymous, but the money, for instance, has to be kept somewhere. Deposited by someone. Wired by some bank. Let’s assume I participate in such a scheme. I get money. How hard it is to check from what bank the money was wired, and then asking the bank who has opened the escrow account and who sent money to it? So, the law enforcement agency in charge would just have to register to take part in the scheme.
Besides, I don’t think this would be an efficient scheme. I’m sure plenty of people would send photo where they’re looking like they’re voting for a given candidate when actually they voted for another one.
Besides, this wouldn’t work with the french voting system, for instance. You just put a paper ballot with the name of the candidate on it in an envelope. Then deposit said envelope in the urn. I could send you pictures of me “voting” for a dozen different candidates if you wanted to. So, it’s quite easy to implement a voting system in which this scheme wouldn’t work.

Money doesn’t have to leave a trace either. Since the American government controls the money supply, they can put certain checks on the anonymity of transactions involving said money. But nothing says that the US government has to hold exclusive control of money. E-cash could very well arise which is backed by a corporation and guarenteed to be completely anonymous. No government would have the power to check which transactions go where.

And under your voting system, all you need to do is to make the voter film from walking up to the voting booth all the way to filling out the vote and walking out again. Sure, they could hire 100 actors to simulate a real vote, but it would probably not be worth it and there would still be enough legitimate votes for it to have an effect.

Maybe, but it’s becoming very hypothetical. Using “alternative” money won’t necessarily be allowed, especially since it can be used to evade taxation…

It still doesn’t work because you put the ballot in the envellop in the booth but put the envellop in the urn outside of it, in front of everybody, and in particular in front of a row of officials in the polling station. So, I could film myself putting a ballot in an envellope, exit the booth, stop filming, reenter the booth and put another ballot in the envellope. The only other way would be to film myself (and in particular my hands handing the ballot, not very convenient) all the way from entering the booth to the moment I put the envellope in the urn, in plain view of everybody.
Now, if besides alternate money, you’re also envisionning a video capture sytem so discreet that an ordinary person could do so without being noticed, it might be theorically possible. But it seems to me to be a far-fetched scenario…

Wait, how does the french system assure that people only vote once? In the Australian system, it involves marking the person’s name off from the electoral roll, and then giving the person a single copy of the ballot. If either of these two steps are not done, then it is trivially possible for a single person to vote multiple times and thus, alter the election this way.

So given this constraint, the ballot itself acts as an authenticating token. As long as you can take a video of the person checking off the preferred candidate on the ballot, then the ballot is already marked and thus, cannot be marked again. The worst that could happen is that the person could just throw the ballot away after that. But that is still preferable to voting for the other candidate.

Oh, and anonymous money could be achieved by the use of drop boxes. Simply hire out a safe deposit box that is protected by passkey. email a secure version of the passkey to the other person and they can collect the money.

Same here. We also sign the roll. I’m not sure what is it that is unclear, so I’m going to tell you how it works step by step (hopefully using the correct english terminology).

-You enter the polling station

-You’re handed an envelope and on a table, there are all the ballots (pieces of paper with the name of the candidates on it). You can pick them, or use the ones that you received by mail along with the official propaganda of the candidates some time before.

-You enter the booth, and there put one of the ballots in the envellope.

-You exit the booth (and there’s no reason at this point why you couldn’t change your mind, reenter it, and change the ballot)

-You go to the main table where the urn is situated. You hand the main official your “elector’s card” (or another official ID). Said official announce your name, and the assistants check it on their list, that you sign in the box in front of your name.

-The official open the slot on the top of the urn, you put your envellope in it, he announces that you have voted and the assistants mention it on the list

I don’t understand what’s the point of giving a copy of the ballot. Actually, it I understand what you mean correctly, you could show this copy to anybody after the vote as a proof that you actually voted as you stated and be paid for your vote, so there’s probably something I’m missing.

But it can’t work with the french system I’m describing. You don’t mark or cross anything (actually you’re forbidden to do so. Any ballot with a mark on it is voided). You only put a paper with the name of the person you’re voting for in an envellope. So, I could film myself putting the paper with the candidate A name on it in the envelope, then stop filming and remove the paper and put instead the paper with the name of the candidate B.

The only way around would be to film myself without interruption from the moment when I put the paper in the envelope until the moment when I put the envelope in the urn, to make sure that I didn’t switch the paper or the envellope itself at any point. That would include filming while I’m just in front of the officials, handing them my ID, or signing the electoral roll. Otherwise, you can’t be sure that what I put in the urn was the ballot I was apparently handling in the booth.

However, I might be mistaken about the terminology especially the meaning of “booth” and “ballot”. I assumed that the “booth” was the place out of view where you (put a paper in an envellope/ mark a list/ use a machine) and a ballot anything used to express your vote (piece of paper with the candidate name on it in my case, perforated card, list of names to mark…).

Well…in this case, you can also just have people at the corner of the street handing money to whoever voted “correctly”. You don’t need modrn technology to bribe people.

The hard part is making sure that people actually voted the way they’re saying they did.

Also, a lot of people must be aware of this possibility (know the name of the internet site or e-mail adress, for instance) if you actually want to influence the result. If it’s common knowledge, then I assume it will be trivial to investigate about whose e-mail it was, for instance, or pretend you’re interested in this scheme and then investigate who rented / used the safe box, etc…

Whoever put together this plan would have huge verifiability issues. How do I know you have 1,000 people voting for my guy?

If everything is anonymous and untracable, how would voters know that they would actually be paid? If the coordinator stiffs them, what recourse would they have? You can’t go to the cops and tell them that somebody broke the contract you had to pay you for your vote. If no one can be sure that they will be paid, why participate?

Based on reputation. The first time, a couple of people try it on a lark figuring they have nothing to lose and it works. The second time, a lot more people will try it.

Because of course, anonymous and untraceable people have such great reputations. And that it’s such a good assumption that because one anonymous and untraceable person fulfilled a contract, a second anonymous and untraceable person will.

How do people hear about the first time? How do they verify it actually happened? How do they hear and verify without the cops, FBI, etc hearing about the first time and verifying enough to make arrests?

You can verify that two anonymous identities belong to the same person without knowing the true identity of the person. Imagine you send an email to in order to register. The next year, you can send another email to the same address. Both times will be the same person yet you don’t know who that person is.

Again, the FBI can be aware that it’s happening yet not know who is doing it. Think about drug deals that happen without either party knowing of the true identity of the other party and without the FBI knowing the identity of either party. It works on roughly the same principle.

Faulty analogy. First, unless the vote buyer is using the same e-mail address as last time, we can’t be sure that they’ve done this before. Second, if I send an e-mail to register somewhere, I cannot be sure that the person receiving that e-mail is the same person who received it last time. It is the same account, but it may have always had multiple users, or have changed ownership.

Additionally, even if I participated last time and was paid, there is no way to be sure that I will be paid this time. Perhaps the first time was just to gain my confidence and they’ll stiff me this time. If they do, what recourse do I have? If I have anonymous dealings on Ebay or another legal site, I have legal recourse.

Drug deals (at least the big ones) involve both parties showing up with guns. The threat of death allows both parties to remain anonymous but be sure that the terms of the deal are kept (‘This ain’t real crack! Kill them!’ or ‘This ain’t real cash! Kill them!’). Over the net and without legal recourse, how can either party be sure the other will keep up their end of the deal? Drug deals involve cash because it makes them hard to track. E-mails and electronic transactions are a whole heck of a lot easier to track.