TO: CVF-NEWS FROM: Kim Alexander, CVF President DATE: October 31, 2000 RE: CA Secretary of State shuts down vote-swapping site
There are a bunch of stories in the news today about some new web sites that are facilitating vote-swapping in the Presidential election. The main objective of these sites is to help voters who support Green party candidate Ralph Nader avoid casting "spoiler" votes that take votes away from Democratic candidate Al Gore and end up helping to elect Republican candidate George W. Bush. The vote-swapping sites are also pushing the idea that a five percent turnout for Nader will secure public matching funds for a Green Party presidential candidate in the 2004 election.
The way the "swapping" works is by a Nader supporter who lives in a closely-contested state agreeing to vote for Gore in exchange for a Gore supporter in a strongly pro-Gore or pro-Bush state agreeing to vote for Nader.
Yesterday, California Secretary of State Bill Jones sent a letter to one of those sites that's based in California, http://www.voteswap2000.com, ordering the site to close down because it violates California election law, which prohibits any inducement to vote. Before being shut down, this web site facilitated vote swapping between strangers through an online database. Jones' letter to the site's proprieters said, "Your website specifically offers to broker the exchange of votes throughout the United States of America. This activity is a corruption of the voting process in violation of Elections Code sections 18521 and 18522 as well as Penal Code section 182, criminal conspiracy."
Another vote-swapping site, http://www.nadertrader.org, is still in operation and, since it is hosted and maintained outside of California, is beyond Secretary Jones' jurisdiction. Unlike the voteswap2000 site, this site doesn't actually facilitate vote trading; rather, it is encouraging Nader supporters to make informal arrangements with friends in other states to trade votes.
Regardless of whether vote-swapping is illegal or not, the practice is a symptom of a much deeper problem with American politics. An increasing number of voters are disassociating with either of the major parties, yet the "winner take all" rules marginalize the chance that minor party candidates will ever be elected. Groups like the Center for Voting and Democracy (http://www.fairvote.org) promote alternative voting methods that would change the process so that a vote for a minor party candidate doesn't end up being a "spoiler" vote. One example is the instant runoff election, where voters cast ballots for their first and second choices.
More news about Secretary Jones' action to shut down the voteswap2000 site is available at:
Wired News: http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,39892,00.html
Sacramento Bee: http://www.capitolalert.com/news/capalert02_20001031.html
San Franicsco Chronicle:
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This page was first published on October 31, 2000 | Last updated on October 31, 2000
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