Today local and regional elections are being held in Spain, elections marked by a vote-buying scandal.
At this point, it cannot be ruled out that vote-buying is more widespread than has been known these days. After all, the security forces have limited resources and uncovering vote-buying schemes takes time and a lot of effort. We must also think that the biggest purchase of votes is done by "giving" people their own money, as the government has done in recent weeks by announcing measures to obtain favor of many voters based on the taxes we all pay.
Despite the fact that much has been said about these scandals, it has hardly been any talk about the scenario that most benefits unscrupulous politicians who are dedicated to buying votes, either criminally - as has been seen in Melilla and in other places - or in an open and shameless way, promising things that later the taxpayers will have to pay for. The favorable scenario for these traps to be successful is a high abstention rate. The less people go to vote, the more likely vote buying will be to succeed. With 100% participation, vote buying would be completely useless.
Let's see an example. As I mentioned here, there was a confirmed case of vote-buying in the 2008 general elections in Melilla, a case in which local leaders of two left-wing parties that went in coalition to those elections (PSOE and Coalition for Melilla) were sentenced in 2021 to two years in prison.
Well then: in those elections there was an abstention rate of 36.32% in Melilla, that is, two out of every three voters did not even go to vote. The coalition that bought illegal votes came within 300 votes of winning a seat, obtaining 15,420 votes. If the even higher abstention rate in the 2004 general elections (44.16%) had been repeated in Melilla, the coalition that bought votes would have won that seat and gotten away with it.
Of course, and despite what some say, if some parties have to resort to something as crude as vote buying, it is because the alternative to rigging an election is much more difficult. Manipulating the electoral result at the time of the recount, altering the tally sheets or in the data transmission process would be easily detectable in a system like the Spanish one, especially if it were done on a large scale. In any case, we must bear in mind that one of the effects of vote buying is that it generates abstention.
People who come to vote for principles stop considering voting effective if they perceive that there is a risk that the process is corrupted, and paradoxically, what some do by opting to abstain is create a more favorable scenario for success of vote buying. The more you abstain, the more effective these traps will be. That is why it is important that those who do so altruistically go to vote, those who vote for their ideals and beliefs, and not by selling their vote. The more we go to vote, the cheaters have less chance of success. If you stay home, they win.
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