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Constituent puts vote up for sale on eBay

(CNN) -- A Maryland voter protesting political corruption vows to hawk his ballot in the 2000 general election to the highest bidder on the Internet. But the electronic auction could prove costly to buyer and seller, possibly landing both parties in jail, state authorities say.

A seller identified as "apragmatic" on the auction site eBay posted the following description on August 15:

"The 2000 election vote of one U.S. citizen who is a registered voter in Maryland in the United States. You may specify whom I vote for in the presidential and all other elections in my district, by name or by party. Why should the American citizen be left out? Congressmen and senators regularly sell their votes to the highest bidder. Democracy for sale!"

By Wednesday evening, 20 bids after its original posting, the price had risen from $5 to $10,100.

  MESSAGE BOARD
 

Vote selling and purchasing violates Maryland and U.S. laws, so will eBay pull the item from its site before the sale concludes on August 25?

EBay has removed questionable items in the past, including human organs. However, representatives from the San Jose, California-based auction site were not available for comment Wednesday.

The seller spoke with CNN.com after he was contacted via the e-mail address listed at eBay.

"It's more of a political prank than anything," said Bryan Ward of Ellicott, Maryland. "I expect eBay to cancel it some time. I ended up doing it as a statement against the extreme influence of corporate financing in politics."

Anyone who sells or offers to sell a vote in Maryland faces up to $1,000 in fines and one year in prison, according to Judith Arnold, an assistant attorney general in the state.

And an official with the Maryland Board of Elections said the case would be referred to the attorney general's office.

"If they do, they will be taking it far more seriously than I was," Ward said.

Vote buyers should beware as well. Such political purchases violate federal law and can lead to five-year prison sentences. The practice is also illegal in Maryland.

"On both sides, the buyer and the seller would be guilty of violating the election code," said Arnold.

Anyone attempting to purchase a vote in the state could face penalties of up to $2,500 and imprisonment of up to five years, she said.

Despite the potential consequences, the incident has already spawned a copycat; Bigwillymc of Washington on Wednesday posted a vote for sale on eBay too. The asking price: $5.



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