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The Courts Government United States News Politics

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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  • Re:This is BULLSHIT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by svendsen ( 1029716 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:51PM (#20146277)
    I'm not sure if your statement is true or false (that you can't sell your vote) but what difference does it make? Forcing someone through violence (physical, mental, whatever) is illegal. However it is my vote I can do what I want with it.

    You aren't actually trading anything. You say I will use my legal vote to do A if you do B. There is no way to enforce it just a gentleman's agreement.

    But let us say it is illegal. Then how could anyone ever vote. Voting is basically a trade is it not? The politician offers to do the things if you vote for them. Sounds like a trade to me.

    So if you can't "trade" votes, IMHO, you can't have a democratic voting process.
  • Re:This is BULLSHIT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:52PM (#20146287) Homepage
    That's what I thought. You shouldn't be allowed to make an agreement with someone that dictates how you should vote. If you can trade one vote for another vote, then how is that different from trading a vote for money? My other question is how do you guarantee who the other person is voting for. Say I want to vote for Nader, but that would mean that Bush would win in my state, so I trade my vote to a place where Bush cannot win, and I vote for Kerry. Now the guy I trade with just reneges on the deal and also votes for Kerry. So, now we have 2 votes for Kerry, and none for Nader. I could see the democrats using this as a way to increase the number of votes they get. Basically trade with someone who wants you go vote independant, so that the republicans don't win, and then make both votes democratic.
  • Re:This is BULLSHIT (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sycomonkey ( 666153 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:53PM (#20146293) Homepage
    Actually there's a big difference between selling and trading. If you sell it, a person gets to vote twice in exchange for money, which is unfair to poor people. However, by trading it, you only bring to the table what every other citizen has, one vote, and it is thus inherently fair.
  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) * on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:53PM (#20146301) Journal
    I don't know if selling a vote is illegal or not, however, in order to sell your vote, someone must buy it. I'm pretty sure that buying votes directly is illegal. As to the inability to verify your part of the contract, I guess you will either be guilty of violating a contract of selling your vote.

    (That last part is a joke, btw. Contracts to perform an illegal act are non-binding)
  • by bitfarmer ( 219431 ) <dan@numbaGIRAFFE ... minus herbivore> 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 CodeShark ( 17400 ) <{ellsworthpc} {at} {}> 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?


  • Re:This is BULLSHIT (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vigmeister ( 1112659 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:56PM (#20146351)

    If you sell it, a person gets to vote twice in exchange for money, which is unfair to poor people
    No it's not! Becasue they get the money ;)

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @03:58PM (#20146397) Homepage Journal
    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. 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.

  • 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.
  • by Tickenest ( 544722 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:05PM (#20146487) Homepage Journal
    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?

  • by goldspider ( 445116 ) <ardrake79@gm a i> on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:13PM (#20146609) Homepage
    - 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 [] 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 have ended very differently if the issue had been settled by referendum.
  • 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?

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

    by dynamo ( 6127 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:19PM (#20146709) Journal
    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.

    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.)

    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.

    Libertarians are much more similar to democrats these days - Oh, except we have actual beliefs where democrats* use polling.

    * Dennis Kucinich and possibly Mike Gravel excluded

  • 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 starX ( 306011 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:35PM (#20146951) Homepage
    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 [], and I can't believe that similarly minded politicians would let something like this happen. As you point out, it could, to a certain degree, negate voter district boundaries. I do think that degree would be extremely limited, however. Just as Americans in general can't seem to have an intelligent discussion about politics without things turning nasty, I don't see a ground swell of support for independently minded candidates, and the subsequent subversion of the electoral process to get them elected.
  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:37PM (#20146981) Homepage Journal
    "Incorrect, as this may well throw the election to the Democrats."

    I dunno....since the vote swapping thing might get more exposure now, it might actually work to get some real votes in for a 3rd party on a national level??

    No one said this had to be Rep vs Dem swapping......why not set up one for swapping Republocrats votes for Libertarian? If Ron Paul were to go indie.....maybe this would work to get him more votes.

    I gotta think that there are a fair number of centrist Dempublicans that would be happy to migrate towards a 'real choice' if a 3rd party were to present one. This might be a viable option to promote that? first article on Slashdot too...


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

    by omeomi ( 675045 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:38PM (#20146987) Homepage
    Oh, except we have actual beliefs where democrats* use polling.

    I think it's interesting that representatives listening to what their constituents think has been turned into a bad thing by the politicians and pundits who don't give a crap what people think, and just want to force their ideologies onto everybody else.
  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tsiangkun ( 746511 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @04:39PM (#20147011) Homepage
    I'd go farther than to say the repulicans are not conservative,
    I would say they represent a conquering foreign government.

    They have destroyed our public education system,
    they have halted our intellectual progress,
    they have weakened the infrastructure of our society,
    they have concentrated the wealth in the hands
    of their supporters, and they have broken treaties
    we had agreed to as a nation.

    Captcha : suffrage
  • 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.
  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hardhead_7 ( 987030 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @05:15PM (#20147509)
    As a former Libertarian (full disclosure: now pretty much a Dem), let me say that Libertarians aren't really against Democrats any more than Republicans.

    Libertarians tend to agree with Conservatives on fiscal issues and small government (with exceptions, of course. Libertarians tend to be in favor of little to no national debt, while Republicans generally either don't care or see mounting debt onto the nation as a way to bleed money from government programs like welfare and public education). However, Libertarians tend to side with Democrats on most social issues (they tend to be in favor of keeping the government out of your bedroom and strongly believe in civil liberties, but tend to be against programs that try to "artificially" achieve equality, such as affirmative action).

    Traditionally, Libertarians run as Republicans, because Republicans have had better fund raising and a better "brand" in the US. If you agree with both sides equally, why not run as the one that you're more likely to win as? However, with the general democratic trend on the 2006 elections and the rise of democratic fundraising, more and more Libertarians are running as Democrats. In many ways, the Blue Dogs that got elected in 2006 were just that.

    Many now are even being more open about it. Bob Lord is raising huge cash right now [] to make a run in Arizona. Technically running as a Democrat, he's calling himself a Libertarian. It'll be interesting how this turns out.
  • 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 []

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

    by dynamo ( 6127 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @05:20PM (#20147607) Journal
    I'm not saying that representatives listening to their constituents is a bad thing. It's wonderful.

    The bad thing is when they are RUNNING for office, and use a constantly changing series of the latest poll results to change their presentation of themselves and their positions; sometimes even changing their (public) positions.

    To put it bluntly, there is in my opinion a lot less actual content in the (metaphorical) democratic mission statement vs the (metaphorical) libertarian one. It's too vague - there aren't enough clear assertions for me. If there was such an official statement (there may be, I didn't check), I bet it would include a lot of marketing bs.

    The basic idea I've gotten growing up in California, a heavily democratic state, was that they are populist. They were supposed to be "for the people", support civil rights (against the surveillance-state republicans), stand up for the small guy, you know.. union type stuff on a larger scale. That has been my impression of what their core focus is.

    But being about someone else, even those you represent, cedes responsibility about policy decisions to a mythical public opinion, which a hypothetical perfect democrat would obviously modulate through her or his own feelings about right and wrong, as would any other human being.

    The public opinion part is the problem. It's easy for anyone to claim that the public thinks anything. Most people act as if they believe that "public opinion" is whatever beliefs news programs express. They can come out with "surveys" or do selected interviews or change any story to be told from any angle.

    There are also polling-scams, cross-party interference, gender and ethnic bias, etc.. My basic point is that nowadays, with mass media, you can not trust "public opinion" to be accurate, period. Yet policy and campaign decisions are made on these issues regularly.

    At it's heart, it feels to me like the democratic party doesn't really know what it supports, except the people. Thus it's constantly showing it's weak side, acting in service of so many different interests that it's trivial for it's own enemies to influence these interests and thus the party.


    Libertarians on the other hand have a VERY clear concept of which policies they support or do not, without having to resort to an insecure constant checking and re-checking of who agrees on this one. Libertarians are not about compromise. We're about freedom of the individual and minimal intrusion of government.

    I believe that it should be the case that my rights end where yours begin, and that they are equal. It all grows out from that core.

    I believe that the government is there to help moderate those boundaries and solve issues too large for individuals - such as prosecuting murders - and that it should do so with minimum overhead and minimum intrusion into any person's freedom.

    I also believe that other governments and their citizens should be treated with the same respect, unless/until they prove unworthy of it. Country interaction is just a fractal expansion of the same core principal for individuals - equal rights, opportunities.

    No true Libertarian would EVER vote to authorize a government to spy on it's own people without a strong duty of proof that it was justified. Or to invade a non-threatening country. Or to take away any person's rights unless they threatened or violated some other person's. ..
    enough ranting. that's my take.
  • by tthomas48 ( 180798 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @06:32PM (#20148973) Homepage
    Apparently this is lie with statistics day. Neither you, nor the parent are completely right, you're both overgeneralizing. There are two reasons a decision could be heard before the Supreme Court:

    1) Because a decision was completely wrong.
    2) Because the decision was complex and the supreme court wanted to weigh in on it.

    You have both inferred either:

    1) The 9th circuit makes a lot of bad decisions
    2) The 9th circuit tries a lot of difficult cases that the Supremes want to review.

    The truth is probably a a combo of the two, leaning towards number 2 since the west has some of the most interesting laws that are being written. The western US and California in particular are constantly challenging issues of state vs. federal rights. So it's no surprise that an enormous number of cases would end up at the supreme court. It's also no surprise that an enormous percentage would be overturned, since the Western US represents the majority of Americans views, while the Supreme Court is a little more in tune with the electoral college view of America (albeit leaning a bit right at this point), so the supremes are going to lean towards representing a more conservative small-state agenda far more frequently than would the ninth court.
  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EQ ( 28372 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @06:53PM (#20149263) Homepage Journal
    I voted libertarian last election cycle, and it sure as hell didnt get me a libertarian candidate. Just more earmarking corrupt pork-fed collectivist Democrtats, to go with the earmarking corrupt pork-fed statist Republicans.

    So yes, thats emperical evidence: voted L, got D in a mixed district.
  • by Train0987 ( 1059246 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @07:01PM (#20149365)
    I'm not sure if this has been pointed out, but the point of these vote-swapping sites was to circumvent the Electoral College. So if you oppose the EC system, this should be right up your alley...

    Say you live in a solid Red state but really want the (D) to win. Your vote doesn't have as much value as that of a Blue voter in a toss-up state. Compound that if the toss-up state is only in play because a 3rd-party candidate is on the ballot.

    IMO vote-swapping is unconstitutional since it circumvents the Electoral College put in place by the Constitution. And before you rail against the EC, imagine the havoc created by a popular-vote-wins system. Unless you're a resident of CA, NY, or TX you are SOL! A candidate would only need to campaign in those states alone, promising the moon while ignoring the other 47 states and s/he becomes the next President.
  • Re:Just Democrats (Score:2, Interesting)

    by got2liv4him ( 966133 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2007 @07:52PM (#20150033) Homepage

    Obama has no experience, consider his recent battle of words with Hillary (which Hillary's campaign loved btw), he really has no clue, he even has less of a clue then hillary...

    does that mean the republicans are better or worse... maybe neither, but I daresay that most of the candidates on the republican side are more qualified for the office of the president than any on the democratic side...

    ...again consider the recent republican debate, the republicans have a broad range of differences in opinions and politics, the democrats seem to all say the same thing to me, tax, bring home the troops, tax, universal healthcare, more tax.

    I would love it if Paul got in, although I disagree with him on some things, but I really think it's going to come down to Gulliani and Clinton.

    Disclaimer: The above is my opinion, not to be confused with a troll. At the risk of being a victim of the ever-present groupthink here on slashdot, I am not posting as AC.

  • by pbaer ( 833011 ) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @05:46PM (#20162847)
    Actually you can theoretically win the presidential election with 26.2% popular. Or was it 22.6%? Of course you can win the presidential election with 0% popular if electoral college feels like it. I don't remember the math behind the minimium percentage of popular vote needed to win, but it is less than 30%.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.