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Why Shouldn't People Sell Their Votes?


Have you heard about the latest trend in American electoral politics? The selling of votes to the highest bidder. The latest uproar over the efforts of a website, Voteauction.com, to sell blocks of votes to special interests groups is really nothing new at all. The same practice goes on, a bit more discreetly, in the U.S. Congress and in state legislatures and city councils everyday.

I actually think that Voteauction.com is doing us all a great service by bringing out the practice that has, up until now, been the private domain of elected officials and lobbyists.

And it is the height of hypocrisy for the media and politicians to rail against the website, as they have, for a practice that they have barely lifted a finger to stop among their own.

A disgrace or power to the people? You decide.

Here is an AP article that gives a brief introduction into the debate:

Tuesday October 17 5:30 PM ET

Web Site Probed on Vote Sales Offer

By AUDREY COOPER,


SACRAMENTO (AP) - A Web site offering to sell thousands of votes for president to the highest bidder is under investigation for possible voter fraud, and the Chicago Board of Elections on Monday sued to shut it down. Voteauction.com boasts that it is ``bringing capitalism and democracy closer together'' and quoted the going price at $19.61 per vote in California and $12.38 in Illinois.

California Secretary of State Bill Jones said the electoral auction was ``no different from standing outside a polling place and selling your vote for a dollar.'' He warned potential vote sellers they could face felony charges and a minimum of three years in prison. While the largest block of votes for sale, more than 1,800, was from California, election officials in Michigan and New York criticized the scheme. In a jab at the Chicago Board of Elections' lawsuit, voteauction.com on Monday announced that new found notoriety had increased the number of sellers on the site and thus lowered the price of each vote in Illinois.

The site was designed by James Baumgartner, a graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, who sold it to a group of Austrian investors for an undisclosed sum. Hans Bernhard, one investor, said he would take the site off the Internet before revealing his clients' identities. "We have to protect our voters," he said in a telephone interview from Vienna, adding that he was not swayed by Jones' threat, which he considered a typical American bullying tactic.

"I know American institutions, especially legal and government institutions, threaten massively. And that's how they solve things, they make people afraid. We aren't afraid because there is no clear indication that something serious can come out of this," he said.

Bernhard said the November presidential election would test the profitability of the Web site and that voteauction.com planned to expand to other countries. The Web site allows corporations or individuals to bid for entire blocks of votes from any state. Jones said California officials would try to identify auction participants, and he warned that even those who were participating as a lark were agreeing to commit vote fraud.

On the Net: The site is http://www.voteauction.com

The Secretary of State's Web site: http://www.ss.ca.gov


Cedric Muhammad

Wednesday, October 18, 2000

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