California Shuts Down Vote-Trader Web Site : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

California Shuts Down Vote-Trader Web Site

California election officials shut down a Web site late yesterday that allowed people to trade their votes over the Internet.

In the past few days, several sites popped up that were designed to allow supporters of presidential candidates Al Gore and Ralph Nader to trade votes.

One site, started by a Los Angeles Web designer, was taken down last night after the secretary of state's office said it was illegal.

Secretary of State Bill Jones said earlier yesterday that any ``inducement'' to vote a certain way is considered illegal under California law.

The idea behind vote swapping is that voters in battleground states who would like to vote for Green Party candidate Nader, but are worried that could cost Democrat Gore the overall election, can switch their vote with someone in a state that is already solidly for Gore or Republican candidate George W. Bush.

The vote-swap Web pages started after an article suggested that voters in different states could swap their votes and hopefully accomplish two goals

--electing Gore president and getting Nader 5 percentage points, the threshold needed for the Green Party to get federal matching funds in the 2004 presidential election.

``So my friend in Austin, where Bush is going to win, will vote for Nader instead of Gore, and I can vote for Gore here in Wisconsin, where the race is very close,'' said Jeff Cardille, a Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who first posted the idea on the Internet.

While the site registered by Cardille only outlines the idea, Los Angeles resident Jim Cody set up a site that allowed people to make contact with others who are interested in the idea.

Cody's site was started Thursday, and before it was taken down it had already claimed more than 4,700 traded votes.

William Wood, chief counsel for the office of the secretary of state, said yesterday morning that trading for anything valuable is illegal.

``In this case, the valuable consideration would be the vote itself,'' he said. ``The vote is an inalienable, fundamental legal concept throughout the country. Certainly in California, we take that very seriously.''

Wood said other states have similar laws, but would not confirm that California is working with them.

Representatives of the secretary of state's offices in Missouri and Texas, two states where there has been a lot of swapping activity, also said the trading is illegal under their laws.

A spokesman for the secretary of state's office, Alfie Charles, said Cody contacted Wood at about 5:30 p.m. yesterday to say he would take the site down.

Cody said last night that he has not decided whether to pursue the matter.

``I don't think the people who wrote the law foresaw anything like this,'' he said.

Earlier in the day, he said he has maintained e-mail addresses of everyone involved so that they can be contacted and told not to proceed.

``We're requiring people who sign up to make their e-mail address available,'' he said. ``People can then contact each other directly. If they decide they don't feel right about it and don't want to do it, they can come back and say they have changed their mind.''

Charles said the investigation is continuing and could not say if criminal charges would be pursued.

Earlier this month, a Web site that offered to buy votes moved its domain out of the country. An Illinois court issued an injunction Oct. 18 against the site, which collects the names of registered voters willing to sell their votes for president.

-- Maxwell (, October 31, 2000


Sorry for the double post. Could OTFR delete this post?


-- Maxwell (, October 31, 2000.

Yup. As I read the Oregon law, it, too, outlaws vote "trading".

Since I am well known on this board as a Nader supporter in a swing state, let me add that I had no intention of pursuing this course of action. I am glad enough to see it shut down.

People need to take total responsibility for their own vote. It isn't a commodity to be swapped around. Elections should not be viewed as opportunities for vote manipulation.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, October 31, 2000.

I'm sorry the site shut down, and find it a chilling example of "keeping the plain people down" the first time they try to employ an elite, sophisticated solution to what Nader could wreak. The site was building tremendous momentus and must have frightened quite a few people.

I can no longer support Nader the man, but wanted to support parts of the Green platform. Given that Nader could well swing the election to Bush, and given that things like a woman's right to choose is on the block, and given further that Nader dismissed in a outrageous fashion that danger to a woman's right to choose in an interview Sunday, the real irresponsibility must lie with those who insist on dogmatic, fanatical adherence to ideology at the expense of the nation as a whole, not those voters who are simply trying to pursue innovative solutions and unity for the common good even in the face of opposition from the so-called "progressive" leader. Nader is proving himself a fundamentalist of the first order.

Hopefully the trading will continue on a personal level. I'm proud to be among the over 7,000 people who are taking a flexible, non- dogmatic, pragmatic approach to trying to secure a progressive future for America with or without Mr. Nader.

-- Celia Thaxter (, October 31, 2000.


I agree that Nader gives all indication of being an inflexible and rather ruthless ideologue. But I don't think striking down this nascent initiative is a bad idea right now. It might be promising, but taken to extremes it represents a very significant change of a very fundamental assumption about the nature of the electorate. Until we really think this through and decide as a people that we wish to experiment with it under formally agreed-upon rules, we might find ourselves unpleasantly surprised. For one thing, all candidates should play by the same rules, whatever those rules may be.

As for a woman's right to choose being on the block, this is driving my wife nuts. Vote Gore, she risks her right to choose to be armed. Vote Bush, she risks her right to choose abortion. Which right should she choose to relinquish? Or should she vote for Nader or Browne or nobody, and essentially let everyone else decide what she loses? As of now, she simply cannot decide which right to choose is more valuable to her. Why do politicians always what to *deprive* us of things anyway?

-- Flint (, October 31, 2000.


Gore has stressed again and again that he doesn't want to take guns away from hunters, shooters, sportspeople, etc. Why do you think he wants to take away your guns?

The voter trade thing was very cool because it was a progressive response of unity to a pressing problem. People came together for a common solution without any government interference -- that is, until it began to work a bit too well.

-- Celia Thaxter (, October 31, 2000.


Some interesting points you allude to here, worth discussing:

[Gore has stressed again and again that he doesn't want to take guns away from hunters, shooters, sportspeople, etc. Why do you think he wants to take away your guns?]

Because this is the long-range goal of the party Gore represents. The problem has been that the swing states tend to be rather conservative socially. They are more likely than the national average to value their guns and oppose abortions, so Gore has had to tone both of these planks WAY down.

Nonetheless, Gore is on record as favoring handgun safety devices that would render these guns essentially worthless for their intended purpose, add cost people wouldn't want to pay, and hit the rather tiny gun manufacturing industry hard. He either supports or carefully does NOT criticize attempts to find gun manufacturers liable for crimes committed by their customers, even though these attempts make no *legal* sense. Gore is on record as favoring strict registration, complete with photographs and fingerprints of all gun owners.

In other words, you can "stress that you don't want to take guns away from hunters" and still support a whole raft of policies that make guns impractical to both manufacture and use, at great expense and no profit.

Imagine if Bush "stressed" that he didn't want to deprive you of your right to abortion, he just wanted to regulate it to the point where to get one, you'd have to pay double the current cost, and be photographed and fingerprinted, and get on a waiting list, and become part of a database, and have your application rejected for unrelated things on your record, etc. How would you react if I "innocently" wondered how it might *ever* occur to you that Bush wasn't "really" on your side?

[The voter trade thing was very cool because it was a progressive response of unity to a pressing problem. People came together for a common solution without any government interference -- that is, until it began to work a bit too well.]

I'm not opposed to this idea in principle, either. I only said we should think it through. Should it be limited to those with internet access? Should it be limited to certain states or certain candidates? Does it change what our founding fathers strongly intended as a 2- party system into what amounts by end-run into proportional representation? Should it be used for state elections, arbitraging rural, suburban and urban votes? What guarantees does the *mechanism* provide against abuse, like voting multiple times by proxy, etc? Since voting as a governmental activity, should these boards be operated by government, or if not what government oversight is best?

As I said, we need to formalize this approach and make it universally available at a minimum. But I do like the basic idea, which might be quite democratic.

-- Flint (, October 31, 2000.

Good move by California, selling a vote is selling a vote, whether you trade in cash or a vote in another state. Your right to vote is yours alone, to barter it away is to cheapen democracy. You have no right to buy or barter electoral votes in another state.

Politics brings out the worst traits it appears, under the table deals, and "whatever it takes" to win. Ethics - try them.

-- David (, October 31, 2000.


Perhaps you ought to save your moralizing for our dear state Senators, who trade votes as a matter of course. But they will not allow their own elite tactics to be employed skillfully and ethically by the dirty masses.

-- Celia Thaxter (, October 31, 2000.

"Nonetheless, Gore is on record as favoring handgun safety devices that would render these guns essentially worthless for their intended purpose."

Please explain. How would a safety devise render a gun worthless?

And aren't they intended to protect children from being the victims of accidental discharge?

I seem to recall reading somewhere that the manufacture of a teddy bear must meet more safety standards than the manufacture of a firearm.

-- Celia Thaxter (, October 31, 2000.


I'll explain as well as I can. The purpose of a gun is to shoot. That's what the gun is designed to do. A safety device renders a gun incapable of shooting. That's what the safety device is designed to do. So already, you should be getting some sense of tension here, yes?

More specifically, the purpose of a defensive handgun is self-defense in a sudden, unexpected emergency. Your handgun is totally worthless to you unless you are *capable* of projecting a bullet out the end within a few seconds. It hopefully won't be *necessary* to shoot the gun, but it must be obvious that you could if you wanted to. We're talking RIGHT NOW, yes?

Various safety measures have been proposed, such as trigger locks, combination locks, etc. What these devices have in common is that you are highly unlikely to be able to bring your gun to bear in your defense within the required time. They simply take too long to manipulate. In addition, the built-in combination locks add considerably to the size and weight of the handgun, and to their cost. Size and weight are surprisingly important if you carry a handgun around with you -- try it sometime.

But OK, let's say you have decided that immediate self-defense will never be required of you, so you don't really care how long it takes to make your gun shootable. Your primary goal is to prevent your children from "being the victims of accidental discharge." Well, the traditional solution to this problem is to store your gun(s) responsibly. That is, locked away where your children cannot get to them, with your ammunition locked away somewhere else. Do you sincerely believe that it is now the *government's* responsibility to force you to do these things?

OK, let's say you consider yourself so irresponsible that the government must force responsibility on you to protect your own children from you. The government therefore requires you to purchase extra safety devices. But why am *I* required to buy them as well? I have no children, and I handle my guns responsibly, and I feel greater need to be ready for an emergency, my neighborhood being located on the wrong side of the tracks. Remember, these safety devices are optional for both of us.

The teddy bear comment is not worthy of you, unless you have completely swallowed the liberal agenda (and you claimed to be independent and NOT Pavlov's dog, remember?). Perhaps, having thought it through, you remain convinced that a teddy bear's purpose is personal self defense? Childrens' toys have about the highest safety standards around. Most people need only look at what they keep under their kitchen sink to realize that these "teddy bear" arguments are purely anti-gun, and have nothing to do with pro-safety. Unless you are dumbfoundingly irresponsible, your gun should be the least of your child's safety worries.

Celia, you surprise me. You are extremely sensitive to political agendas when something you consider important seems either threatened or desirable. But when you *agree* with someone's overall agenda, then it vanishes from your ken, and you can see only the bark on individual trees in this forest.

What we're dealing with here is a mindset that says: Guns are bad, and we want to permanently remove them from the hands of ordinary citizens, who are inherently irresponsible and some of whom are evil. However, we cannot do this by direct frontal assault, since the U.S. Constitution explicitly guarantees the right to bear arms. So we need to approach our long-term goal obliquely, and in increments. We recognize that our goal can be met implicitly even if not explicitly.

Now, how do we do this? Well, we can try to make guns unacceptably expensive to buy. That will eliminate many of them. And we can try to make them far too legally risky to manufacture, because cutting them off at the source will render moot our freedom to buy what isn't made. And we can encumber them with all manner of "safety" devices, which adds to everyone's cost and makes guns much harder to use. And we can force all purchasers to fill out questionnaires, and get put into databases, and get photographed and fingerprinted, and refuse to sell guns to people who have had various unrelated past problems. That discourages a lot of people too.

And we can start gelding the guns incrementally as well. First, we outlaw automatic fire. Then we restrict the magazine capacity. Then we prohibit types of ammunition, one at a time. Then we require specialized license to sell them. Then we make it essentially impossible to sell them at gun shows, where many if not most change hands. And we can take away citizens' rights to carry their guns state by state, or at least make permits to do so essentially unobtainable. And we can organize large scale propaganda marches. And of course it's a big help that every crime committed with a gun gets lots of press, and every crime *prevented* with a gun gets none. And that we get bombarded with these invalid "teddy bear" comparisons. And that the NRA is depicted as a bunch of redneck Neanderthal propagandists. This list can get very long.

Celia, all of these things have either happened or are in the process of happening, and Gore endorses every one of them. Do you see a pattern here? Do you wonder why I might take Gore's "stress" with a grain of salt, knowing he's tailoring his message to the pro-gun swing states? Where was his dismay when what he stresses he won't do, was actually done in the UK and Australia?

Going back to your question, NO, these devices are NOT really "intended" to protect children. They are simply one strategem in the overall agenda. Sure, if they end up helping more children than they harm, so much the better. But since part of the overall strategy is to report all cases we can find where a child was protected by a safety mechanism, and simply ignore all cases where a child or its parent was killed because the safety mechanism rendered their gun inoperable, (or at least carefully mention the criminal's *usable* gun, and somehow always fail to mention WHY the victims could not defend themselves), we needn't worry about the ACTUAL impact of these devices.

And this is scary because ultimately, the way to manipulate public policy is to manipulate public *perception* of what's happening. We live surrounded by a battle of appearances and impressions. In the information age, the victor controls the information, and the first casualty is always the truth.

-- Flint (, November 01, 2000.

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