Why can't I sell my vote?

Federal Law against selling votes:

18 USC § 597 - Expenditures to influence voting

Current through Pub. L. 112-123. (See Public Laws for the current Congress.)

Whoever makes or offers to make an expenditure to any person, either to vote or withhold his vote, or to vote for or against any candidate; and
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.

Most (All?) states also have laws banning vote selling.

Given that corporations can spend unlimited money to influence elections, why can’t I sell the proxy for my vote to the highest bidder?

This is not a SHOULD you vote question.

This is a question about why are state and local regulations interfering with what could be a more efficient and direct free market instead of all these advertisements, push poll calls, etc. If Walmart gave you 25% off everything you buy between now and Nov, would you assign them as your proxy to vote in Nov?

Not only that, but, depending on how “expenditure” is defined, it is also illegal to give something away as an incentive to vote - not to vote for or against anybody/anything in particular, but just to vote.

I mention this because, where I vote, there is usually a group of people (it may be organized by the local Girl Scouts) who offer free coolies just outside of the polling place, and I am not sure if you have to show an “I Voted” sticker in order to get one.

Winchell’s Donuts stores back in the late 70s would give you a free donut on election day, provided you presented the stub from your ballot (this was in LA county, CA).

Until someone pointed out that this was technically illegal, so they stopped.

Unless Winchell’s was only giving donuts to people who voted for their favored candidate I don’t see how it’s illegal.

I think there’s more than election laws being broken if the Girl Scouts are handing out free slaves.

Cookies would be OK. Maybe even cooties :smiley:

Because using advertisements to try to influence someone’s voting decision is obviously not the same thing as just buying their vote.

What is the justification for limiting the basis on which an individual may base their choice of candidate? Aren’t you buying votes if you promise to lower taxes or offer subsidies to people situated a certain way?

I thought the same thing at the time. I don’t think I ever got a completely satisfactory explanation, but to the best of my recollection, any inducement to cast a vote AT ALL was considered too close to the line of legality.

My thoughts in hindsight? The bean-counters got the legal department to come up with a plausible rationale for discontinuing the expense. The counter staff never gave with anything more than a muttered hand-wave with the words “illegal” and “voting” buried in the blah-blah-blahs (and asking how come you’re not giving us free stuff any more always struck me as a bit low-class).

Hey now money’s free speech, are you saying I can’t talk a man into voting for who I want buy giving him money.

At this point our system is so deeply flawed cutting out the middleman, advertisers, it might provide a clearer picture of how our voting system really works. It would have the added perk of encouraging voter turn out and economic stimulus.

We still have anonymous ballets giving someone money can only influence someones vote as they could both take your money and vote for someone else.

If someone were to buy my vote, how could they be sure I followed through on my end of the deal? They would have to have some method of verifying the transaction. However, folks who did not sell their votes would not need to submit to verification. These folks would stand out as not having sold their votes. The ballot would no longer be secret in any meaningful way.

Asking why people can’t sell their vote, to me, is like asking why a politician can’t accept bribes.

Because the law says it’s illegal. You always have the option of trying to change the law.

You’re confusing the actual act of going to a polling booth and voting (or mailing your vote in) with listening to someone tell you who you should vote for. Your neighbor tells you to vote for the Green Party, your brother tells you to vote Democrat, your mom tells you to vote Republican. It’s your choice if you want to listen to any or all of them.

A union tells you to vote for candidate “A”, NBC/MSNBC tells you to vote for candidate “B”, Amalgamated Horse Poop, Inc. tells you to vote for candidate “C”. None of them are actually buying your vote.

They couldn’t be sure, which is why prohibitions on vote buying seem rather pointless.

(bolding mine) I think this is funnier than the girl scouts with the coolies. Your America is much, much weirder than the one I grew up in.

Dateline November 3, 2008: Starbucks plans to offer a complimentary size tall cup of brewed coffee to anyone who votes Tuesday. Take that Winchell’s!
Uh oh: UPDATE: Starbucks halted its plan to give voters free coffee Tuesday after concerns surfaced that the promotion could violate election laws.

After launching the promotion with great fanfare, Starbucks spokeswoman Valerie O’Neil said in an email late Monday that the coffee chain changed its plans. “To ensure we are in compliance with election law, we are extending our offer to all customers who request a tall brewed coffee,” O’Neil said in an email.

Election day deals from 2008 included coffee, donuts, ice cream, sandwiches, phone calls and haircuts. They typically were offered to anyone so as to avoid uncomfortable legal questions.

I dunno, undue influence? The authorities are presumably wary of wink-wink nudge-nudge appeals so they curb all activity.

This question seems like a Brickroll. Its basic intent is to highlight the presumed absurdity of “money = speech” that props up a host of campaign finance decisions.

The law also said restrictions on third party campaign spending were illegal. SCOTUS said the law couldn’t do that. He’s asking what the difference is.

I’m fairly certain he didn’t ask what “illegal” meant.

Here’s my thought: Starbucks offering a free coffee to anyone with an “I voted” sticker: pretty innocuous. Home Depot offering 5% off to anyone who voted: I have no problem with that.

A Super PAC offering $10 gift cards to the Olive Garden to voters in selected precincts in certain swing states? Hold on, that probably isn’t a politically neutral celebration of American democratic freedoms. I think the law, though broadly written, is probably a really good thing.

Well, that brings us back to my previous question: why? And don’t say “because it’s like bribing a politician.” What specific negative impact(s) are you worried about?