ad info  technology > computing
    Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback  




Consumer group: Online privacy protections fall short

Guide to a wired Super Bowl

Debate opens on making e-commerce law consistent



More than 11,000 killed in India quake

Mideast negotiators want to continue talks after Israeli elections


4:30pm ET, 4/16










CNN Websites
Networks image

Web site offering to sell votes shut down

Industry Standard

(IDG) -- If you were thinking of selling your vote in the presidential election, think again., a Web site that offers a forum for citizens to sell their votes to the highest bidder, shut down Friday amid legal questions and technical glitches. EBay also has pulled the plug on at least seven people who have posted their votes for sale on its auction site since Wednesday.

The problem: Buying and selling votes violates federal and state statutes.

"You have to make your own decision how you want to vote," says Douglas Kellner, a New York City Board of Elections commissioner who helped persuade Voteauction to close. "People can spend money to influence your vote, but they can't buy it."

James Baumgartner, a graduate student working toward a master's in fine arts at Renssellaer Polytechnical Institute in Troy, N.Y., launched Voteauction earlier this month. He shut it down Friday and announced Monday that he was selling the content and domain name to an e-commerce developer in Austria. He did not disclose sales figures and did not know about the buyer's plans. No charges have been filed against Baumgartner.

  TechInformer: The Thinking Internaut's Guide to the Tech Industry
  How online auctions work
  E-voting gets closer
  Reviews & in-depth info at
  Industry Standard email newsletters
  Questions about computers? Let's editors help you
  Industry Standard daily Media Grok
  Search in 12 languages
  News Radio
  * Fusion audio primers
  * Computerworld Minute

Baumgartner's idea was to capitalize on undecided or disillusioned voters who intended to sit out during the November election a group that comprises more than half the amount of voters from four years ago. Baumgartner also hoped to divert some of the millions of dollars being spent on advertising and consultants to get voters. "I thought it'd be more direct and more democratic to have these voters make money from their vote," Baumgartner says. The site's motto: "Bringing Democracy and Capitalism Closer Together."

Voteauction planned to auction votes in blocks according to state. Bids would start at $100 per state and go up by $50. Whoever had the highest bid would get to decide how the entire group of votes from the particular state would vote. Voters would divide the final price equally among themselves.

Despite server crashes last week, about 200 voters signed up at Voteauction on Thursday after an online article featured the site. "Selling my vote I think is a very obvious political statement," said one enrollee from upstate New York, who would only give her online pseudonym, "Jenny Ondioline." "It's saying that if the buying and selling of votes is going on even now between closed doors, through the lobbyists, let's make it a little more obvious."

The vehicle for that political statement is following the course of other troubled dot-coms, albeit for a different reason. Although many Web sites have ceased operations in recent months because of financial problems, Baumgartner decided it would be "prudent" to shut the site down Friday night after his thesis adviser, Albany attorney Paul Rapp, received a call from Commissioner Kellner.

"Under New York law, it is a felony merely to offer to sell your vote or to offer to buy a vote," Kellner says. People who buy or sell votes or gamble on the outcome of an election forfeit their right to vote, he added.

Buying and selling votes also is illegal under federal law, according to a U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman. The Justice Department has been talking to eBay's counsel about the votes for sale on the auction site, which were removed, said company spokesman Kevin Pursglove.

Rapp suggests that Voteauction might not have violated the law because it merely proposed to provide a forum for votes to be bought and sold, without engaging in the actual practice. Baumgartner suggests another defense: a landmark 1976 legal decision called Buckley vs. Valeo. In the "money equals speech" decision, the U.S. Supreme Court found that to limit campaign spending was to violate free speech.

While Rapp finds the argument "interesting," he can imagine judges rolling their eyes in a courtroom. After all, "the end result would be the sanctioning the sale of an election," he says. "No judge is going to endorse that."

Web site offers to sell U.S. presidential votes
August 18, 2000
Vote for sale?
August 17, 2000
Reform Party online balloting thwarts hackers
August 17, 2000
Constituent puts vote up for sale on eBay
August 16, 2000
Oddities on the auction block
August 11, 2000

Online with the GOP
(The Industry Standard)
E-voting gets closer
(PC World)
How online auctions work
(PC World)
Online balloting thwarts hackers
Internet voting predicted to be standard by 2004
EBay lays off 13 at Butterfields office
(The Industry Standard)
GOP to unfurl its 'eContract 2000'
(The Industry Standard)
It takes an iVillage


Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.