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'Nader trader' vote swap site shut down

SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) -- California authorities have shut down a vote swap Web site aimed at so-called "Nader traders" -- people in battleground states who agree to vote for Democrat Al Gore if someone in a less contested state votes for the Green Party's Ralph Nader.

"We did notify the site manager that they were in violation of California election law and they did need to cease activities on the Web site, and they complied," Shad Balch, a spokesman for California Secretary of State Bill Jones, said Tuesday.

The site, (www.voteswap2000.com), was one of a number of Internet trading sites that sprang up after political pundits suggested vote swapping as a way of backing Nader without costing Gore the election.

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According to the theory, Nader supporters in toss-up states sign up to vote for Gore. In exchange, their votes are "swapped" for Nader votes by people in states already solidly behind either Gore or Republican candidate George W. Bush -- helping Nader toward his goal of five percent of the popular vote, the threshold needed for the Green Party to obtain federal matching funds for the 2004 election.

Balch said Jones sent Web site managers Jim Cody and Ted Johnson a letter explaining that their swap site "is engaged in criminal activity in the state of California" through violations of state laws prohibiting the brokering of votes.

"The right to free and fair elections is a cornerstone of American democracy. Any person or entity that tries to exchange votes or brokers the exchange of votes will be pursued with the utmost vigor," Jones' letter said.

In a message on the site Tuesday, Cody and Johnson said they had turned their software off to comply with Jones' order. "At the time we set the Web site up we understood that what we were doing was legal," the message said.

Launched less than a week ago, the Los Angeles-based Web site claimed almost 5,000 traded votes. Along with their closing message, the site listed a number of other Web sites where people can go to trade their votes.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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