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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Felony Vote Selling

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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With the attention vote swapping got in the last Presidential election, this probably seemed like the next logical step or a brilliant stroke of insight -

A Minnesota college student looking to profit off his political indifference has been charged with a felony for trying to sell his vote on the auction Web site eBay. The student, Max P. Sanders, 19, of Edina, was charged Thursday with one count of bribery, treating and soliciting, a felony under an 1893 Minnesota law that criminalizes the sale and purchase of votes.

In May Mr. Sanders set a minimum bid of $10 for his vote this November and offered to provide photographic documentation inside the booth.

Not so brilliant. Really worth pursuing criminal charges over though? The story provides some insight into how D.A.s mind operate.

The state law was actively enforced during Prohibition, when “people would go into bars and dig out drunks and give them a $20 and try to buy their vote,” said Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney, who said he did not know of any other modern abuses.

“We’re not humorless in the county attorney’s office and we’re not in the horse-and-buggy age,” Mr. Freeman said, “but we decided it’s something we just couldn’t blow off. Sometimes in this business we need to make statements.”

Attending a Fourth of July parade, where he observed a veteran limping along the streets, reinforced his decision, said Mr. Freeman, who is a Vietnam veteran. “A lot of us served in the military trying to protect the right to vote,” he said. “This is serious stuff.”

The charge carries up to five years’ imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. Mr. Freeman said an “appropriate” penalty was more likely to entail community service, not jail time.

I’m not one to minimize the importance of ensuring the validity of our electoral system. Luckily for Sanders Freeman seems to have some sense of proportional punishment. Maybe he can raise some funds for a “get out the don’t-sell-your-vote” campaign by auctioning off Sanders’ soon to be acquired community service time.

New York Times: Offer of a Vote for Sale Draws Unwanted Attention

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