Internet Sites Try To Sell Votes
Aug. 20 -- Your vote could be worth cash.
At least three people recently tried to auction off their votes in November’s presidential election to the highest bidder on eBay. In upstate New York, a site called voteauction.com is trying to be even more audacious, selling blocks of votes to interest groups who want to influence the election.
There’s only one problem: it’s illegal. Buying and selling votes in North America has been illegal since the 1680s, electoral historian Bob Murch said.
“Buying votes has been a crime ever since people started having elections. It was a crime in the Roman republic,” he said.
The owner of voteauction.com, James Baumgartner, a graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., insists that he’s for real.
Court cases have proved, he argues, that in elections, “money is free speech. Corporations or individuals are … influencing voters with their money. Voteauction.com is a more direct method of doing that,” he said.
As a satire on the political system, the vote-sellers get their points across, said Susan Quatrone of political reform advocacy group Common Cause.
“The idea that the American voters’ choices are basically auctioned off to the highest bidders through the soft money system is very true. I like direct, honest satire that cuts through the rhetoric which tries to pretend this system is clean,” she said.
Wanna Buy a Vote?
The votes on eBay appeared for sale on Wednesday and Thursday, spokesman Kevin Pursglove said, and were taken down when a user noticed them and complained.
The auction site, which handles more than 50 million listings every three months, takes down illegal auctions when told about them — in the past people have tried to auction off things like “the dolphin which found Elian [Gonzalez] at sea” and a young man’s virginity.
One of the votes got up to $122 before getting knocked out.
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