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Vote Swapping Ruled Legal 496

Posted by kdawson
from the third-parties-could-get-some-respect dept.
cayenne8 writes "During the 2000 election, some sites were set up for people across the nation to agree to swap votes, among them voteswap2000.com and votexchange2000.com. They were established mainly to benefit the third-party candidate Ralph Nader without throwing local elections to George Bush. The state of California threatened to prosecute these sites under criminal statues, and many of them shut down. On Monday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the vote-swap sites were legal (ruling here, PDF). The court held that '...the websites' vote-swapping mechanisms as well as the communication and vote swaps they enabled were constitutionally protected' and California's spurious threats violated the First Amendment. The 9th Circuit also said the threats violated the US Constitution's Commerce Clause.'"
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Vote Swapping Ruled Legal

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  • by nebaz (453974) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:45PM (#20146161)
    If politicians can shape districts to 'coordinate' votes, why shouldn't the people be able to do the same?
    • by Goalie_Ca (584234) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:05PM (#20146495)
      Signs of a broken system...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by starX (306011)
      Because "the people" can't be trusted to elect incumbents. It's a basic fact that district lines need to be drawn every now and again, also that elected officials are primarily concern with keeping their jobs, and so no party in power is going to consciously draw their lines in such a way that hurts them. We all got a taste for just how nasty elected officials can be in the 2003 Texas Redistricting scandal [wikipedia.org], and I can't believe that similarly minded politicians would let something like this happen. As you po
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Xonstantine (947614)
        As a Texas resident, the Texas redistricting "scandal" wasn't really much of one. Texas has leaned heavily to the right for the last 20 years, but due to earlier Democratic redistricting every bit as onerous as the redistricting that Republicans were attempted (and actually more so), it's national Congressional delegation was split evenly Republican and Democratic, when actual voting patterns are closer to 65/35 in favor of Republicans. As Republicans captured and held on to state legislatures, Democrats
  • I'll agree with just about anything that helps "the third guy" in elections. I'm tired of throwing my vote away!

    Unfortunately, it's hard for me to believe that a third party will ever have a legitimate chance at winning the presidency...

    • by Dunbal (464142)
      Unfortunately, it's hard for me to believe that a third party will ever have a legitimate chance at winning the presidency...

      Stranger things have happened. Of course it never will, since almost everyone shares your attitude.

      Costa Rica (my adopted country) has had a two-party system for well over 40 years. Last election, the incumbent party failed to obtain more than 10% of the vote, and a completely new party is sharing power with the traditional "opposition" whic
    • Re:Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

      by johnkzin (917611) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:01PM (#20146437)
      I'd rather have the Australian voting system.

      You rank the candidates instead of just picking one. On the first pass of counting, the highest ranked candidate on your ballot gets your vote.

      Then they eliminate the lowest ranked candidate. Then the ballots are re-counted, and anyone who had that as their highest rank has their vote go to their 2nd ranked candidate.

      Repeat until you have a clear winner.

      The advantages are:

      1) if you have single issue candidates, then the first round of counting tells you how important each of those single issue candidates were

      2) if you put your highest rank on your "idealist" candidate, and second rank on your "practical candidate", then you get to make both of those votes without throwing your vote away.
      • Re:Cool (Score:5, Informative)

        by tetranz (446973) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:41PM (#20147035)
        I think the US could benefit from a better voting system but I don't think Instant Runoff Voting as used in Australia is the way to go. IRV might sound good initially but it really doesn't do much for small parties and has some scary consequences [rangevoting.org].

        There are lots of different systems but Range Voting [rangevoting.org] looks pretty good to me.

        That's only one layer of the discussion. There are several ways it could be implemented in a federal system to elect a president. Unfortunately, its a tedious boring subject for most people.
      • Re:Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

        by evanbd (210358) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @05:19PM (#20147585)

        IRV (Instant Runoff Voting, the system you describe) is about the worst of the alternatives to the one we have. Of course, it's still far better. I'd much prefer one of the Condorcet systems. I'd happily support almost any well thought out voting reform plan.

        The basic problem with IRV (though it's better at this than first past the post) is this: it can elect candidate A such that the majority of people would be happier with candidate B who lost. This is the so-called Condorcet criteria and the Condorcet systems all pick the winner by this criteria. (They differ in how they handle the case of no clear Condorcet winner.) The basic example would be a three party election with two relative extremists and a moderate. The moderate might be very few people's first choice, but no one's last choice. For the example, lets say A gets 39%, B gets 20%, and C gets 41% of the first place votes, with the A and C voters all putting B as second choice and the B voters all putting A as second choice. First past the post and IRV will both pick one of the extremists, though IRV will do a better job (FPP picks C, IRV picks A). Condorcet, however, will correctly pick the moderate candidate.

        Details: Condorcet method [wikipedia.org]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by kubalaa (47998)
        http://zesty.ca/voting/sim/ [zesty.ca] illustrates clearly some of the really wacky things that can happen with IRV. For example, in certain situations, a shift in the public opinion towards a certain candidate can actually cause that candidate to lose.
    • If you think that voting for the candidate that best represents your outlook in politics is "throwing [your] vote away" it's pretty easy to understand why a third party hasn't won yet.
      • Of course it's throwing the vote away. The winner-takes-all electoral college system guarantees that third parties are all but non-votes. The US is a two party system precisely because of the electoral college.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by east coast (590680)
          If you're going for a simple majority in an election what difference does it make if the electoral college is there or not? I understand that it is a problem that a candidate can win without the popular vote but I don't see how this brings down a third party candidate. If anything it could benefit him.
      • I prefer a more honest and open system. Me and my pack of goons trying to beat up you and your pack of goons. There is usually a clear and uncontested winner. With no rules no one can really cheat. See open and honest.

        But I really don't care much for the impeachment procedings. A knife in the back does work though.

  • by trb (8509)
    The ruling says that vote swapping web sites are legal. I don't see it saying anything about whether vote swapping is legal.
    • by trb (8509)
      Oops, well, yes. tfa says: "Both the websites' vote-swapping mechanisms and the communication and vote swaps that they enabled were...constitutionally protected." They could have made it clearer in the article, though.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by gEvil (beta) (945888)
        What do you mean? It appears twice in the article. Or maybe you meant to say "I could have read a little more closely before making a stupid comment."
  • by regular_gonzalez (926606) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:51PM (#20146275)
    It's a little known fact that this is why Dewey lost to Truman, falling for the old "you vote for me and I'll vote for you" trick. Poor sportsmanship on the part of Harry S, for sure.
  • Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shagg (99693) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:53PM (#20146305)
    Diebold is already swapping everybody's vote for cash from the highest bidder.
  • by bitfarmer (219431) <danNO@SPAMnumbakrunch.com> on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:53PM (#20146313) Homepage
    ...everyone voted at a guaranteed same time, instead of across 4+ time zones where the open and close times for each polling station varies.

    I recall one of the many controversies in the 2000 election in Florida was some people were staying home in the panhandle (Central Time) because they were being told by the TV talking heads that Florida was already decided (in the rest of the state, Eastern Time) and so their vote didn't count.

    NBC's Tom Brokaw actually had an interesting idea -- have the polling take place over a two or three day weekend instead of Tuesday and have ALL the poll stations open and close at exactly the same time irrespective of time zone. That way you mitigate the 'my vote doesn't count' problem as well as making it more convenient for those of us who want to watch 'House MD' on Tuesday night.
    • by donnyspi (701349)
      As long as we're using the Electoral College, there will always be the "My vote doesn't count" argument.

      I like your idea though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      ...have the polling take place over a two or three day weekend instead of Tuesday and have ALL the poll stations open and close at exactly the same time irrespective of time zone...

      No. Just say no.

      I'm a poll worker and we have enough trouble getting volunteers to cover the polls for one day. There is absolutley no way we could get enough bodies to cover for three. As it is now, the senior citizens who work there are fried by 5 and barely make it until 8. If they had to come back the next day, they'

    • by lawpoop (604919)
      How about we have a national holiday for voting, right after a 'voting weekend', instead of having voting during a single work-day?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)
      NBC's Tom Brokaw actually had an interesting idea -- have the polling take place over a two or three day weekend instead of Tuesday and have ALL the poll stations open and close at exactly the same time irrespective of time zone. That way you mitigate the 'my vote doesn't count' problem

      The fact that your vote doesn't count has NOTHING to do with the time you cast it. It has everything to do with the fact that there are no candidates worth voting for. No matter who you vote for, big business wins.
  • by CodeShark (17400) <ellsworthpc.yahoo@com> on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:55PM (#20146339) Homepage
    For the simple reason that the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the US) is likely to get involved as soon as the State of California appeals the ruling.

    Personally I find that this is probably a distasteful ruling -- voting is supposed to be a matter of conscience in one's own locality -- not somewhere across party lines where presumably money could also change hands to encourage the vote swap -- i.e. who says a person can't claim to vote swap with multiple people, or even use a spam list to fake the trades -- thus essentially buying votes -- which IS illegal.

    But on the one on one level, since this is America a person ought to be able to say whatever they want short of "fire" in a crowded theater type stuff, so this isn't necessarily a bad ruling.

    The question is, what SHOULD the law or at least constitutionality of something like this be given the 'Net?

    Thoughts?

    • by pla (258480) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:19PM (#20146713) Journal
      voting is supposed to be a matter of conscience in one's own locality

      With one major problem - 3rd party candidates can't get elected mostly because everyone knows that 3rd party candidates can't get elected.

      I sincerely believe that most people would vote for just about anyone other than Tweedledee(D) and Tweedledum(R), given a serious option. But we all know that doing so effectively throws away our vote, so we settle for the lesser of the two evils.



      The question is, what SHOULD the law or at least constitutionality of something like this be given the 'Net?

      We shouldn't need to resort to a system such as vote-swapping, which arises only as a symptom of a frustrated populace trying to balance an issue more a matter of perception than actual tallies. If we actually had some form of fair election system like IRV (not saying that IRV doesn't have its flaws, but it does a hell of a lot better than what we have in the US now), we wouldn't need these games, because everyone would vote for who they really wanted, while still getting to pick a "safety" from the big-two.
      • by susano_otter (123650) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @05:09PM (#20147427) Homepage

        With one major problem - 3rd party candidates can't get elected mostly because everyone knows that 3rd party candidates can't get elected.

        This perception would change the moment 3rd party candidates started getting elected... to local office. Personally, I have no problem understanding or accepting that a party whose platform is either so poorly presented or fundamentally unrepresentative that it cannot consistently get elected to offices such as Mayor, County Sheriff, School Board Chair, State Legislator, or State Governor--let alone hold a significant fraction of the House of Representatives or the Senate!--can't get elected to the highest political office in the land, representing the will of the entire citizenry, wielding the full power of the armed forces, and directing foreign policy for the nation as a whole.

        Once third parties start proving their worth in local and regional offices, and stop trying to skip ahead to the presidential election, then they'll be ready to try for national office.
  • Essentially you can collapse the whole thing into a single tier and one voting district. Each district would become overwhelmingly dominated by a single party/voice and therefore all representation is distorted at the lower levels. The whole system collapses in on itself until you reach a layer that is crudely proportional.

    Frankly, I think that the only way to prevent abuse is to go to direct democracy. But that requires superior education. At the moment, the US spends $50 per person per year on education

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tickenest (544722)
      At the moment, the US spends $50 per person per year on education. This doesn't seem to be a whole lot. You'd certainly never reach the level of enlightenment required for a stable democracy. The US would also need more leisure time. That's when people get a chance to think and to mature. Besides, it's pretty well established that people will do more productive work on a 35-hour week than a 40+-hour one.

      Mmm...sources on the $50 and 35-hour week statements?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by goldspider (445116)
      - At the moment, the US spends $50 per person per year on education.
      - Besides, it's pretty well established that people will do more productive work on a 35-hour week than a 40+-hour one.

      I don't suppose you'd care to cite any sources to back up those claims, especially regarding education. 5 minutes on Google [usatoday.com] brought me to a very different (though slightly dated) per-student spending figure.

      Direct democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding on what's for dinner. I imagine the civil rights movement would
  • Here's an idea! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:04PM (#20146477) Homepage Journal
    How about we have a system where each vote is equal!!
  • Just because something is legal doesn't make it right. There might be something wrong with the election process in the U.S., but that doesn't mean people should be finding ways to circumvent it, legally or otherwise. What's happening here is a workaround, and workarounds don't typically lead to solutions.
    • What's happening here is a workaround, and workarounds don't typically lead to solutions.

      That's not necessarily true. Workarounds sometimes allow a problem to build to enough of a critical mass to demand attention instead of just causing people to quit trying like an intractable problem does. Voting in America is definitely a system that a majority of "users" think is flawed and don't bother with anymore.

      Just because something is legal doesn't make it right. There might be something wrong with the electio
  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:17PM (#20146663)
    Is this like an old Dilbert comic I read? Dogbert convinced Dilbert that because they were going to vote of opposing candidates, that it would be simpler and have the same effect if they agreed not to vote at all. After not participating in the election, Dilbert realized that Dogbert can't vote anyway. His response? "Not directly anyway."

    So is this vote swapping thing related to that in some way?

  • So, how does vote swapping help anything other than make sure parties rule politics instead of individuals? I mean, Bush and McCain are of the same party, Obama and Lieberman are of the same party.

    I understand the point of political parties is to get elected and to collectively wield power, but vote swapping seems to undermine the actual election of individuals who are ultimately each responsible for their own upholding of their constitutional oaths.
  • The 9th has gone wacko again. In making votes (or mor properly, promises to vote) a legitimate item of commerce, they're inviting back the old days of whiskey and money for votes. Tamney Hall.

    For whatever ends, this is still called corruption.

  • by deander2 (26173) * <public AT kered DOT org> on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:33PM (#20146929) Homepage
    there is no way vote swapping would work anyway. voting is private, and you can't prove how you voted even if you wanted to.

    note that this is intentional. (and it's the reason all those voter-receipt-check-that-your-vote-was-counted ideas don't show you HOW you voted) imagine your boss at work saying "everyone bring in your voter receipt wednesday if you want to get a pay check friday!" (or your union leader, who might say "if you want your wife to not have any 'accidents'.")
  • by deblau (68023) <slashdot.25.flickboy@spamgourmet.com> on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:36PM (#20146971) Journal
    And so is the summary. Here's the quote:

    The 9th Circuit also said the threats violated the US Constitution's Commerce Clause.
    This statement directly contradicts the ruling. From the middle of the last paragraph on page 4 of the PDF:

    Because we conclude that Jones' actions were not sufficiently tailored to advance the State's legitimate interests, we do not reach Appellants' further claims that those actions were an unconstitutional prior restraint, violated the dormant Commerce Clause and were ultra vires under state law.
    The appropriate people have been notified.
  • by immcintosh (1089551) <slashdot AT ianmcintosh DOT org> on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:37PM (#20146975) Homepage
    To those who are complaining about this: please spare me the bullshit. Gerrymandering [wikipedia.org] has been around a long time, and until we get rid of THAT nonsense, there's no reason I can think of, legal or moral, that its reasonable counter shouldn't be employed by the people being gerrymandered against.

If a thing's worth having, it's worth cheating for. -- W.C. Fields

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