Well, here’s a story you don’t hear too often. A 19-year-old from Minneapolis (a student from the University of Minnesota) has been charged with a felony (bribery, treating, and soliciting) in the Hennepin County District Court on Thursday for putting his (presidential election) vote up on eBay. The bidding started at $10, and he would vote for the candidate of the winning bidder’s choice, or he would not vote at all if that’s what the winner wished. He said that he would take a picture of his ballot to prove it.
Posting under the name zeprummer612, Max P. Sanders wrote “Good luck! You’re [sic] country depends on You!”
The Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office received a criminal complaint, and reported the issue to prosecutors, who in turn subpoenaed eBay for the information that lead to Sanders. Sanders is being charged under a law from 1893 which makes it illegal to offer to buy and/or sell a vote.
John Aiken, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office told reporters, “We take it very seriously. Fundamentally, we believe it is wrong to sell your vote. There are people that have died for this country for our right to vote, and to take something that lightly, to say, ‘I can be bought.’ It’s a real shame. I can imagine the conversations being held in American Legion Clubs and VFWs about whether this is a joke or not. There are two things going on here in terms of why it’s a crime. One is the notion that elections should be a contest of ideas and not of pocketbooks — at least not in the sense of straight-out ‘I can buy your vote.’ The second notion is that everybody gets one vote and you don’t get to buy another one.”
Sanders has claimed that it was merely a joke, but I doubt this. It goes into too much detail about proving that he voted the way the bidder would want for it to be a joke.
Sanders faces a maximum of 5 years in prison plus $10,000; however, the prosecutor’s office has said that they will not push for jail time. This is actually one case where I do not advocate for the maximum penalty. I think he should be fined, and possibly jailed, but for no more than a few months. I would support a ban on him voting however, but Minnesota law does not ban ex-felons (felons who have served their sentence – technically that felony is still on the record) from voting.
At first, I had to debate with my libertarian side if this should be legal. Then I came to the conclusion that if we allowed for this, it would corrupt the election process. Of course, that is the reason that we have the Electoral College, and cases like this are prime examples of why we still need it.
The listing got no bids, and Sanders has since removed the listing.
For reference, here’s a map of states and their policies on felons voting (I wanted to do a post on this months ago, but it got caught up in the qeue and I just scrapped the idea for the time being):
Tags: 2008 Election, Bribery, Candidate, Court, Court Case, crime, Criminal, eBay, Election, Electoral College, Felons, felony, General Election, Hennepin County, Hennepin County District Court, John Aiken, Max Sanders, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Money, Politics, Prosecutor, Secretary of State, University of Minnesota, Vote, Voter