Those who renounce self-determination in favor of democracy are granted the consolation prize of having a say, usually nominal, in which rules or rulers govern them.

The drawbacks of attempting to access your agency through the Rube Goldberg machine of electoral democracy are plain enough. But this does not explain the intense animosity with which many anarchists regard voting—which does not, by itself, preclude more direct applications of agency, so long as the results are not regarded as inherently legitimate. An anarchist might take a few minutes to vote for the less competent of two evils in a presidential election, for example, without ceasing to struggle to overthrow the government. When it comes to revolutionary strategy, voter abstention is a paltry substitute for generalized insurrection.

So why this fixation? Apart from the dangerous superstitions associated with it, could voting itself be hazardous?

One has to dig deep to find evidence of this; yet history is deep indeed, and rewards every researcher seeking to corroborate a pet hypothesis. One theory about the untimely death of Edgar Allen Poe—who expired shortly after turning up in poor condition in Baltimore in October 1849—suggests that the renowned author was voted to death.

In those days, political gangs would rig elections by shanghaiing vulnerable gentlemen and liquoring them up to make them agreeable. On election day, these unfortunates would be frog-marched around to all the polling stations; once one circuit was completed, their handlers would change their clothes, trim their mustaches, and run them around again. The faster the pace they kept, the more votes they were worth, so it must have been a grueling experience. Nowadays, political gangs accomplish the same thing with advertising and voting machine fraud, but it wasn’t always so easy.

Poe was known for his stylish dressing, but when he was found—drunk, delirious, and in the process of dying of exhaustion, at a bar that served as a polling station—he was wearing a cheap, ill-fitting suit that didn’t seem to belong to him. It was an election day. So there you have it: voting, horror of democratic horrors, killed the greatest horror writer of all time—and might kill you, too, if you put too much stock in it.