Friday, October 08, 2010

Economics of Afghani Votes

No this isn't one of my usual tirades against voting. Though I guess this isn't a celebration of democracy either. Last month Afghanistan their parliamentary elections. Unsurprisingly there was rampant fraud. One example, was vote buying:
In northern Kunduz Province, Afghan votes cost $15 each; in eastern Ghazni Province, a vote can be bought for $18. In Kandahar, they sell their rights for as little as $1 a ballot. More commonly, the price seems to hover in the $5 to $6 range, as quoted to New York Times reporters in places like Helmand and Khost Provinces.
And the exchange process was surprisingly formal:
In many places, so-called vote maleks organize the trade. These are brokers who collect all the voter registration cards in a community, and then peddle them to the highest bidder. Typically, the vote malek keeps half of the money and the voters get half.
Though the votes may seem cheap, you must consider Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world with a per capita GDP of less than $1000 (compared to the US at $46,000). So, accounting for relative wealth (and ignoring the international importance of US elections), it's like an American vote going for around $250. Here's the silver lining of the fraud. It's less fraudulent than it could have been:
Vote buying is much more common in this election than the last national balloting here last year. The feeling, experts say, was that last year’s election was stolen wholesale by supporters of President Hamid Karzai, so there was little need for vote buying.
And it's also good news that fake voter cards, which apparently aren't as effective, went for about 23 cents each. But don't let the price of a vote imply anything about the patriotic value of the vote. If anything, illegal vote getting implies there are other illegal gains to be had once elected.

Hat tip to Marginal Revolution.


  1. Something similar can be seen in few parts of India, but as it has localized effect , so not much crying is done in media.

    One more thing, what price tag do you think will entice people in America to sell there votes ?

  2. Considering how much impact it's certainly more than the $250 I stated earlier. Could a back of the envelope calculation of money spent on campaigns divided by votes work?

    Here it is: Total, for 2008 presidential election, about $2.65 billion was spent. That same year 131 million people voted.

    That comes out to $20 per person. That's less than I expected it to be. Not sure if it tells us anything.

  3. I guess that it suggests,economically good campaigning makes more sense than buying votes...I don't think 20$ is enough to buy conscious .

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  5. I did some research and quick calculation . In India on 2004 general election approx 0.15$ spent per person on campaigning .

    Hence,figures suggests that campaigning is always cheaper than buying votes.

  6. I agree. Thanks for the research.


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