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Vote Swapping Ruled Legal 496

cayenne8 writes "During the 2000 election, some sites were set up for people across the nation to agree to swap votes, among them and 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?
  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <> on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:47PM (#20146189) Homepage Journal
    The same software could also solve the Libertarian/Republican crisis as well as the Green/Democrat crisis, so I see no point in arguing that it's one sided.
  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:4, Insightful)

    by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:51PM (#20146263) Journal

    The same software could also solve the Libertarian/Republican crisis as well as the Green/Democrat crisis, so I see no point in arguing that it's one sided.
    Vote Libertarian--crisis solved :-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:51PM (#20146271)
    1. Trading =/= selling.
    2. There is no actual contract or binding agreement to cast a vote in any particular manner involved in these sites. They are not actually trading or selling anything, even a vote. What they are essentially doing is polling people and allowing them to base their choice on what others are doing. It's really nothing special and there is no reason for this to be illegal.
  • 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.
  • Re:well, no (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:56PM (#20146353)
    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."
  • 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!!
  • by Goalie_Ca ( 584234 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:05PM (#20146495)
    Signs of a broken system...
  • by MDMurphy ( 208495 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:09PM (#20146537)
    It would have been interesting if they'd ruled it was illegal. Vote swapping in Washington is done every day of the week, you vote for my bill, I'll vote for yours. While this is a slightly different type of voting, it usually has much more stringent requirements, i.e. no absentee voting.

    This mechanism of reaching a compromise by agreement on how someone will vote on various issues is pretty deeply ingrained in U.S. politics, so it would be odd indeed to restrict it's use to elected officials only.
  • by rewt66 ( 738525 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:10PM (#20146573)
    Note well: A well-run country is a benefit. Not being taxed to death to pay for a bunch of pork is a benefit. Honesty and integrity in government is a benefit.
  • by pureevilmatt ( 711216 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:21PM (#20146749)
    The patch? Instant Run-off Voting.
  • Re:Cool (Score:3, Insightful)

    by east coast ( 590680 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:28PM (#20146851)
    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.
  • by Jhon ( 241832 ) * on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:32PM (#20146913) Homepage Journal
    Wow... someone modded you up?

    Some people just don't actually follow up on citations.

    To anyone who feel's motivated to mod parent up, please review the SOURCE of the PDF first. []

    Clearly the GP is not "completely wrong". The GP is more on the money than he realized.

    Although the 9th Circuit's caseload comprised approximately 17% of the federal appellate cases terminated in the year ending March 31, 2002, its decisions accounted for close to half (43%) of all the federal appellate decisions reviewed by the Supreme Court this past term.
  • by deander2 ( 26173 ) * <public@kered . o rg> 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'.")
  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <> on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:35PM (#20146957) Homepage Journal
    We libertarians believe in things like civil rights and limitations on federal government power. If republicans have ever supported these concepts, it hasn't been during my politically aware lifetime (last 15 years or so.)

    Youngster. You don't remember Ronald Reagan, who basically ran on civil rights and limitations on federal government power, and who actually popularized "The scariest words in the English Language: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

    Republicans have certainly become corrupted since then (The current administration very much so), but they're still more likely to limit government interference in the free market than Democrats are.

    Dude, I know it's a popular misconception, especially among the R's, but Libertarians are NOTHING LIKE republicans, and it's just as easy for us to see their behavior is deceitful, wasteful, totalitarian, and just plain disgusting.

    Don't mistake the current crop of oil-industry idiots for the majority of Republicans.

    I don't know what the hell Ron Paul thinks he's doing acting like part of that group of idiots. And don't tell me that they are both supposed to be "conservative". The pointless and unnecessary wars they tend to start and glamorize are the most expensive, wasteful, and downright suicidal (on a national level) government programs I've ever seen.

    Ron Paul and Ronnie Reagan have a lot in common- and while I have a tendency to agree with you on "pointless and unnecessary wars", back in the 1980s they knew how to fight them cheaply with a very minimum of waste. The invasion of Panama was the worst, and even that was over in a couple of weeks. Most followed the War Powers Act that gives the sitting President 48 hours before he has to report to Congress to ask for permission for a war. A good Republican IS a Libertarian.
  • by immcintosh ( 1089551 ) <slashdot@ i a n m c i n> on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:37PM (#20146975) Homepage
    To those who are complaining about this: please spare me the bullshit. Gerrymandering [] 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.
  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Keys1337 ( 1002612 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:44PM (#20147097)
    Put your money where your mouth is. If I vote Libertarian, what odds will you give me that my vote will throw the election to the Democrats? Probably worse odds than most lotteries. People need to realize they only have control of ONE vote. Unless you can control or influence other votes there is no use for strategy. You can spend a million hours strategizing with your one vote and you will still only have a handful of options and the outcome will not have changed. Just vote for the guy you want NOT the guy you don't want, it's simple. If you are helping campaign or giving money, then you might give some thought to strategy.

    Also in the past I would have agreed with you that the Republicans are the lesser evil, but these days the Neocons are out of control. I'm just hoping Ron Paul can get his message out.

  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nuzak ( 959558 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:50PM (#20147163) Journal
    > Don't mistake the current crop of oil-industry idiots for the majority of Republicans.

    Why not? They voted for these people. And when actually faced with the prospect of another Democrat in the white house, especially Hillary, they will again.

  • by SashaMan ( 263632 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:54PM (#20147213)
    Umm, actually, you're completely wrong. Is this "lie with statistics" day? The PDF you show lists percentages of cases reviewed by the supreme court that are overturned, i.e:

    number of decisions overturned / number of decisions reviewed = 75% for 9th district

    However, the supreme court only reviews cases that are controversial and/or of judicial importance in the first place. The 9th circuit had a whopping 24 cases reviewed by the SC and 18 decisions were overturned - most of the other courts had only 1-4 cases reviewed.

    The important metric is really:
    number of cases overturned by supreme court / number of cases decided by circuit court

    Your source document does not show this data.
  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bartab ( 233395 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:57PM (#20147249)
    Strategic voting, which our system demands from all sensible voters, does not imply full support of whomever receives a persons vote.
  • by Wordsmith ( 183749 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:57PM (#20147259) Homepage
    And the current system promotes the interests of individuals in low-population areas over the interests of individuals in high-population areas. One vote doesn't equal one vote, which is a problem.
  • by Sephiro444 ( 624651 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @05:02PM (#20147323) Homepage

    Your statistics that the 9th Circuit is overtuned only 75% of the time, but the 4th, 5th, 8th and 10th circuits are overturned 100% of the time is incredibly misleading.

    While you can look at the raw percentage numbers alone (and thus you are technically correct), the Supreme Court only granted certiorari on 3, 3, 1 and 1 cases in those respective circuits anyway, while they heard TWENTY FOUR cases from the 9th Circuit in the same time period. Of those, 18 were reversed or vacated (which is 6x the 4th and 5th circuits, and 18x the 8th and 10th). So this notion that the court is reversing more cases anywhere except the 9th Circuit is both misleading and wrong.

    The reason for the numbers is simple: the Court can choose to hear whichever cases it deems needed for its ruling. If it felt the judgment of the circuit court was essentially correct, there is little need to hear it again at the Supreme Court level. On the other hand, if there is serious question about the soundness of the appellate court's decision, the Supreme Court is the only higher power that can undo it. As I think the real numbers in that statistic shows, the Court feels the need to do that in far more cases originating in the 9th Circuit than anywhere else (including the courts of all fifty states combined!). The fact that not every one of those is immediately reversed is just a reflection of the much larger number of cases.

    And FYI, not only is your statistic misleading, but your conclusion is incorrect as well. While the 9th Circuit may hear more cases than some of the smaller areas, it's certainly not 8x-24x, so yes, based on those numbers, any given ruling from the 9th Circuit IS statistically more likely to be heard by the Supreme Court, and it overturned them 75% of the time in 2002. (though I doubt it's a personal grudge against California)

  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xappax ( 876447 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @05:05PM (#20147365)
    If I vote Libertarian, what odds will you give me that my vote will throw the election to the Democrats?

    If your vote contributes to throwing the election to Democrats, that's the only way it'll be effective.

    Think about it. The Libertarian candidate isn't going to win no matter what, but the Republicans might. If the Republicans can still win and gain power without your vote, then why should they care about Libertarian issues, or your opinions?

    If you vote Libertarian and the Republicans lose because people like you didn't vote for them, it forces them to take notice. They lost the election because certain people were so disaffected by the party that they deliberately withheld their votes by supporting the Libertarians instead.

    In short, the only way you can get mainstream parties to listen to you isn't by helping them win, it's by making them lose, and doing so in a way that clearly demonstrates the direction you want them to take.
  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @05:14PM (#20147499) Journal
    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 stinerman ( 812158 ) <> on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @05:26PM (#20147775) Homepage
    In theory, you're absolutely right. The fairest way to allocate electoral votes is to allocate them as a percentage of the total vote. If X gets 40% of the vote, he gets 40% of the electoral votes. Colorado had this on the ballot. It lost by a wide margin.

    Why did it fail? Lets use my home state of Ohio as an example. Ohio has 20 electoral votes, and is notoriously a swing state in presidential elections. If Ohio adopted the allocation as above, pretty much any major party candidate would get at least 40% of the vote. So by default the lesser of the two candidates gets 8 EVs just for being alive. The other major candidate would likely get the rest. So we know for sure that each candidate will get at least 8 EVs for being on the ballot. That leaves only 4 EVs to fight over. What does that mean for Ohio? No more candidates spending all their money in our state. No more enhanced influence for our voters.

    We don't want fair elections, we want our votes to count more than others. Using a fairer method means less incentive for candidates to come to your state every few days during the campaign season. This plan works only under a mutual disarmament scenario, much like the national popular vote plan that states are passing (whereby the state allocates it's electoral votes according to the popular vote). Only if everyone agrees to the same plan, will there be any reform.
  • Let me say that most of the Greens I've talked to are not in favor of vote-swapping, for several reasons.

    1. As you say, it's not enforceable. You might trust your cousin in another state to trade with you, but that doesn't scale, certainly not via an anonymous website.

    2. It defeats the purpose of voting: to cast your ballot for what you believe in. There's an argument that vote-swapping could bring you closer to what you want in the long run, but picture trying to swap votes in different races with different people in assorted districts in your state -- the calculations get out of hand very quickly.

    3. This is a distraction from the structural flaws in our voting system, such as prohibitive ballot-access laws, first-past-the-post, and the Electoral College.
  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gd2shoe ( 747932 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @06:19PM (#20148755) Journal
    You've massively oversimplified the situation. The post you're responding to is much closer to accurate. There are very few ways for a third party candidate to win in our current plurality system. One, if we constantly hear from others (read: media) that they have a chance (Liberman in the last election). Two, if the vast majority of people don't care which candidate gets elected and throw their votes away together (unbelievable, but hypothetical). Three, I don't know. I think there is no three.

    As long as the majority both care who is elected, and don't think a third party has a chance, then the third party candidate has no chance. People will always vote against the party they dislike most by voting for the party they dislike least.

    (shameless plug: that's why we need a different voting method in the US; examples: Instant Runoff (IRV), Condorcet)

    The only reason I think you are voting Libertarian (it sounds like) is because you care more about the principle of the thing than about who actually wins. You sir, are a rare minority (for better or worse).
  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @06:25PM (#20148861)
    I noticed you said "controversial and/or of judicial importance." What's wrong with taking up cases that are of judicial importance? Or are you arguing that the majority of the cases are controversial? If they are controversial, they seem to hold up fairly well.
  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <> on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @07:31PM (#20149779) Homepage Journal
    Hillary's Socialized Health Care. I find that among many libertarians, their fear of large government is only overshadowed by their fear of government controlled industries.
  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @08:50PM (#20150547)
    The nuts wouldn't be so harmless if people started voting for them! :)

    Does it really matter any more whether the official story about the attack is accurate?
    Well, yes! If the government really flew remote-controlled Boeing aircraft into lower Manhattan, wired several buildings with explosives, and killed a bunch of American civilians... that would significantly change my view of what needed to be done with the US government. In particular, we'd need to do a French Revolution-style purge... bring back the good ol' guillotine.

    Fortunately for our friends in Washington, only a few nuts actually think that is what happened... and for good reason. I'm always amazed that these guys keep saying things like "it wasn't hot enough to melt steel". Anyone with an engineering degree can tell you that steel will get weaker with heat before it actually melts. Hell, watching the things burning on TV, the structural guy next to me said, "Ohhhh, that thing's gonna pancake." Sure enough, an hour or so later, they both pancaked.

    I won't vote for anyone so full of themselves that they think they know better than every structural engineer on the planet. That person is either pandering to nutcases or is a nutcase himself.
  • by senatorpjt ( 709879 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @09:33PM (#20150927)
    Maybe if you live in Florida or Ohio, but I live in New York, so my vote doesn't mean shit. It's kind of nice in a way. I can vote for whatever freak I want, the Democratic candidate will win anyway.
  • by MLease ( 652529 ) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @03:22AM (#20153291)
    In the last election, 54.3% of the voters in California went for Kerry, while 44.4% went for Bush (source []); in terms of votes cast, it was 6,745,485 for Kerry, and 5,509,826 for Bush (with some sliver for other candidates), which means that Kerry took 1,235,659 more votes than Bush. New York was a little more emphatically for Kerry, giving him 58.4% (4,314,280 votes) to Bush's 40.1% (2,962,567); still, this was a difference of 1,351,713 votes, which wasn't that much more than the difference in CA. Texas was almost a mirror image of New York, giving 61.1% to Bush and 38.2% to Kerry (4,526,917 Bush votes - 2,832,704 Kerry votes = 1,694,213 margin for Bush). Taking the three states together, the total difference was 893,159 votes, in favor of Kerry. This is about 0.7% of the total votes cast nationwide for Bush or Kerry in that election. I think it is highly unlikely that campaigning exclusively in those states would have changed the numbers by more than a few percentage points either way. Besides, if concentrating on those states and "promising them the moon" would influence votes by a greater degree, what you would have is both major candidates doing the same thing in the same states; their efforts would offset each other. Meanwhile, the rest of the country would be watching this, and possibly become so annoyed with the major candidates that they might decide to follow someone else; I don't think the major candidates could afford to ignore the less populous states even to the extent that they already do.

    The reason those big states have as much influence as they do on the elections now is that the EC is a winner-take-all deal (with the exception of Maine and one other small state, IIRC). It doesn't matter whether a candidate wins 50.001% to 49.999% or 90% to 10%; the electoral votes are the same. Take away the EC, and the 40-45% of the voters in the populous states who disagree with the majority there would actually have some say in the election.

    As for the Founders, I am aware of the debates on those issues. If their lives depended on it (I take it you're assuming that the failure to form the U.S. as we know it would have threatened their lives; I'm not quite sure how, as the Revolutionary War was long past by the time of the Constitutional Convention, and it wouldn't have been profitable for Britain to try to reconquer us by that time, as far as I can see), that has no bearing on whether their answer was the best possible one. They were human beings, just like us. I have a suspicion that if they could have been given a glimpse of the future, they might have made some different choices than they did.

  • Re:Can this be... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by knisa ( 209732 ) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @12:14PM (#20157911)
    Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, there is definitely a movement against our two party system. The democrats are leaving for the Green Party and some to the Libertarians. The republicans are leaving for the Libertarians and Constitution parties.

"Call immediately. Time is running out. We both need to do something monstrous before we die." -- Message from Ralph Steadman to Hunter Thompson