Everything has a price: from the ground under your feet to the words that come out of your mouth. Nowhere is this more true than on the black market. Occasionally a market will form, beneath the constant exchange of drugs and weapons, to cater to a more niche demand. Sometimes it is illegal pornography or murderers-for-hire, but today’s bumper crop may seem a bit innocuous by comparison: votes in the 2020 presidential election.
How much is your vote worth? Well, it depends. Are you in a swing state? Are you in an overrepresented electoral district? How close is the election at the moment? How many other people in your district are also offering their votes? All of these factors contribute to the final sticker price. Exceptionally “high quality” votes can net in excess of $500, but the average for swing state votes seems to have currently settled somewhere between $25 and $75, but experts say it is likely to increase as the election looms closer. This may seem high, but remember: selling a vote is a federal felony. Meth isn’t expensive because it is costly or difficult to make. It is expensive because if you get caught making it you will rot in jail for years. The same principle applies to votes.
“high quality” votes can net in excess of $500
What kind of person sells their vote? There is some history of Americans in extreme poverty selling their votes on the street for little more than a handle of vodka. However, these days most votes are sold online by young college students, and they are taking it very seriously. A typical vote sale might go something like this:
- A student, let’s call him “Allen”, decides that he would like to sell his vote.
- Allen uses the tor network to connect to a darknet marketplace specializing in electoral classifieds. Many such sites exist, with names like “VotesExchange” and “Cash4Prez”.
- Allen makes a sale listing. He fills in his precinct, and the site auto-populates the page with demographic statistics and polling data that will be useful for potential buyers.
- He sets his asking price based on the market rate that the website helpfully suggests. He is free to ask for more, but that is of course a gamble. As the election draws closer the value of his vote could fluctuate wildly. Allen decides to play it safe and price just below market rate for a quick sale.
- A buyer sends an offer through the integrated bidding portal, and Allen accepts. The buyer pays and the money is held in escrow. Allen will have a predefined number of business days to submit a mail-in ballot for his buyer’s chosen candidate and furnish proof. Once he does so, an administrator will release the transaction and Allen will receive payment in cryptocurrency.
If vote fraud businesses of the past were like a grimy motel, today’s voter fraudsters are AirBnB. They are slick, professional, and possess a tech-savvyness borne from a childhood spent online. This is a far cry from the old days of busing homeless Americans to the polls in exchange for a meal.
We managed to contact one man who posted a vote for sale in Illinois. For obvious reasons he chose to remain pseudonymous. His name on the VoteListings virtual classifieds site is “JuryDuty”. In response to our private message asking for some background into his decision to sell his vote, he had this to say:
i just realized it doesnt fucking matter. what difference does it make who i vote for? theyre all dipshits. if i can get $40 its gone its getting cold here and my gas bill is expensive as fuck. i care about being warm more than i care about which billionaire gets to be chief bigshit of the jackoff party. i figured out how to register at my old adress so i can probably mail in there too. just give me money i dont give a fuck lmfaa
Jury declined to provide any more information on his background, but looking at other users’ account aliases paints a startling picture: “FannieMaesCunt”, “UCONNisaCON”, “PayMyDebtPls”. Biography sections on user’s accounts frequently make reference to student loan debt and high cost of living. In many ways we seem to be witnessing a response to the desperate circumstances in which many young Americans find themselves.
Perhaps this attitude of hopelessness was best summarized by JuryDuty’s response to my asking what it would take for him to see value in his vote.
maybe if i could vote for mitch mconnel to blow his head off with a shotgun then sure i guess that would be worth voting for