Given the Secret Ballot, How Do Vote Buyers Make Sure Bought Voters Stay Bought?

The secret ballot makes vote buying more difficult:  how can the buyer be sure the voter actually votes for the candidate he has been paid to support?  Out of Kentucky, here is the description from yesterday’s Sixth Circuit opinion (see this post) of how an alleged vote buying group of conspirators circumvented this obstacle (along with others).  Since the Sixth Circuit ordered a new trial, I want to repeat that these are the allegations:

Political candidates pooled money to buy votes and to pay “vote haulers” to deliver voters whose votes could be bought.  In order to be paid, voters had to vote for a particular set of candidates, known as a “slate” or “ticket.” To ensure that these voters actually voted for the correct slate, co-conspiring election officers and poll workers reviewed voters’ ballots—a practice known in this case as “voting the voter.” Once the proper slate was confirmed, a token (such as a raffle ticket) or marking was given to the voters to confirm that they did in fact vote for the proper slate. Voters with the token or marking were then paid by members of the conspiracy in a location away from the polls. Conspirators retained lists of voters to avoid double payments and to keep track of whose votes could be bought in ensuing elections.

In addition to hiring vote haulers, defendants allegedly utilized other methods of buying votes. Absentee voting and voter-assistance forms helped minimize the difficulty of checking paid voters’ ballots. In the latter case, co-conspiring poll workers were permitted to be in the voting booth under the pretext that they were assisting voters; in reality, co-conspiring poll workers were confirming that voters chose the proper slates.

When electronic voting machines were introduced to Clay County in the 2006 election, the conspiracy both stole and bought votes. To steal votes, conspirators, typically poll workers, purposefully misinformed voters that they did not need to click “cast ballot” on a screen that appeared after voters had selected candidates for whom they wished to vote. Co-conspiring poll workers would enter the voting booth after the voter exited and change the electronic ballot to reflect the slate before finally casting the ballot.

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