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You should be able to photograph your ballot

Who Owns Your Ballot?

November 28, 2012

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach wants to make it illegal to photograph your completed ballot, and he wants the power to enforce this law.

There’s a thorny question here: Who owns your ballot? You, or the state? If you, then can you be prohibited from photographing something that you own?

The usual argument for such a law is that it constrains the buying and selling of votes. A photo of your ballot, it is said, would be proof to a vote-buyer that you delivered the service you promised, if you were to sell your vote. With no ability to prove your vote, it’s thought that there would be fewer buyers.

I don’t think, however, that the state should start judging why people voted as they did. Those who voted for Democrats in Kansas: Did they do so because these candidates promised to take more money from others in order to spend more on schools for their children?

Those who voted for Barack Obama: Did they do so because he promised to take more taxes from high income earners to give everyone else more “stuff?”

When a political party transports someone to the polling place because they believe the voter will vote in their favor: Is that buying a vote? Or only providing free shipping and handling?

As H.L. Mencken wrote some years ago — before government got really big — “Every election is a sort of advance auction of stolen goods.” Whether the sale is implicit or explicit, it doesn’t change what’s happening. There’s no need to create new laws or enforcement powers.

If we’re really interested in reducing the market to buy and sell votes, let’s reduce the power of government to give away stuff that someone else has paid for.

Bob Weeks

Bob Weeks is a blogger for liberty and economic freedom in Kansas: http://wichitaliberty.org. Find him onTwitter: @bob_weeks

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Categories: Elections, Politics, Regulation
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