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Vote-selling Web site to be revived, possibly offshore

(CNN) -- An Internet site designed to auction U.S. presidential votes could reopen days after New York authorities convinced its creator to shut it down, said a maverick Austrian businessman who bought the domain name.

Hans Bernhard said his holding company would operate outside the United States to circumvent federal and state laws that forbid purchasing and buying ballots.

"Our lawyers are evaluating the situation. The Web site should be up in the next 24 to 48 hours," Bernhard said Thursday. "We still have the option to go offshore if there are legal problems."

Bernhard did not give the name of the holding company. But the e-mail address listed with his domain registration belongs to a Vienna-based group that specializes in unorthodox e-commerce services and works with a variety of Internet companies.

  MESSAGE BOARD "is a network of flexible digital uber-brains," reads the company Web site, which offers headhunting and investments as well as "guerilla marketing, shock marketing and drama marketing."

Bernhard said he and his European associates might need time to become familiar with U.S. elections and laws, but Bernhard seems to have an idea about U.S. commerce.

"We bought the domain name and related business because we see this as a serious business venture in which we can make money."

Critics think he and others trying to auction ballots on the Internet are making a moral mess of the voting process.

"The age of Internet voter fraud is here sooner and in more sinister form than even I imagined," said Deborah Phillips, president of the Voting Integrity Project, an activist group that specializes in Internet and democracy issues.

"We don't have any moral attitude," Bernhard countered. "We are simply business-oriented. We see how the U.S. system works. There's lots of money related to elections. We just come from the other side. We don't go the top down, advertising approach. We take a direct approach with the voter."

James Baumgartner sold the site for an undisclosed price earlier this week. He launched in early August to allow undecided or disillusioned voters to sell their votes to the highest bidder in the November presidential election.

Whoever bid the highest for each state could decide how those participants would vote. The Troy, New York, graduate student had planned for voters to mail him absentee ballots to verify the selections.

Web site offering to sell votes shut down
August 23, 2000
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

Center for Responsive Politics
The Voting Integrity Project
U.S. Department of Justice

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