Vote Buying


Another aspect of criminal corruption used to influence elections is the practice of vote buying. This practice goes over well in places where citizens could actually make a difference but have lost confidence in their vote ever meaning as much as items with more tangible value – ranging from new shoes for the kids in poor countries all the way to university tuition in wealthy ones.

In parts of the Philippines, poor people look forward to the vote-buying ‘season’. Festivities produce a run on the banks for low-denomination bills, which are handed out the night before an election attached to a piece of paper with the name of the purchasing candidate. Election day becomes a national shopping day, and the markets are crowded with people spending their extra cash.

Case Study: Vote Buying

As a concrete example, take the case of vote buying. Vote sizing solves this age-old tit-for-tat by introducing a new switch: Instead of the poorer people being bought (at a cheap price) to swing elections, they become the most hardened and effective opponents against vote buying. This is not to say that vote sizing directly prevents vote buying or trading, but our new political power and responsibilities will make us less and less likely to settle for ‘favors’ once we see that we can instead effect true change for ourselves and the entire community.

On one hand, vote sizing throws a great big monkey wrench into the negotiation process by varying each person’s vote. Suddenly, even though tyrants can try to concentrate their efforts on the very poorest (which would be difficult, as vote sizing doesn’t have sudden drop-offs but operates on a curve), they simply cannot just hand out the same amount of money to the taxi driver, the store clerk and the janitor, because those who are poorer will each argue for more money according to their specific income, or lack of it. This heightens the tension overall and puts the tyrants’ in additional jeopardy, since offering money to one person at one rate can easily offend many others who feel ripped off. Extortion works only if there is some kind of level playing field – which is something that curved vote sizing doesn’t allow for.

There’s also the factor that with vote sizing in effect for a few election cycles, the people who earn less will be the ones who reject money in favor of political power anyway, so they will be the hardest to swing with a small gift. As vote buying appeals to those who lean towards wealth, it’s ineffective since they are the ones with the smallest votes.

Finally, because vote sizing focuses political power on the very people who are most detrimentally affected by corruption, then as time passes, more and more people will realize that the scales are tipped enough to make their vote worth much more than a feast, new dress or pork-barrel project. The temptation will be for those people to reject the bribes and instead look for ways to use their now weighted vote to throw out corrupt vote buyers and install a totally new breed of elected officials who are committed to serious change.

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