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Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 22:36 GMT 23:36 UK
US votes up for auction
vote auction website
The auction is attracting voters across America
United States officials are investigating the activities of a website that is auctioning votes in the presidential election.

The California based www.voteauction.com says it is "Bringing Capitalism and Democracy Closer Together," but legislators in California, New York and Michigan have began investigations into the site's activities.

In Chicago the Board of Elections has applied to have voteauction.com shut down.


It is your vote, you can throw it away or destroy your ballot paper, so why can't you sell it?

Hans Bernhard Austrian investor

According to the website they have more than 21,000 registered members who are offering to sell their votes.

The secretary of state for California has described the scheme as "no different from standing outside a polling place and selling your vote for a dollar".

Voter fraud

Mr Jones has warned that users could be charged with felony and jailed for three years.

The site invites voters in each state to offer their votes for sale on the site through a bidding process.

The highest bid for votes in each state will then be given to a presidential candidate of the winning bidder's choice.

Vice President Gore and Governor Bush
The Presidential candidates are facing commercial test of their popularity

The price of the vote varies according to each state. In California for example the going price is $19.61 and in Texas $4.19.

Officials say they fear absentee voters will find the scheme attractive.

Business venture

The website was designed by James Baumgartner, a graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

He then sold it to a group of Austrian businessmen.

One of the investors, Hans Bernhard, has pledged to protect the identity of his clients.

"We have to protect our voters," Mr Bernhard told the Associated Press news agency.

"I know American institutions, especially legal and government institutions, threaten massively. And that's how they solve things, they make people afraid.

"We aren't afraid because there is no clear indication that something serious can come out of this."

The site is reported to have moved operations to various countries and is currently believed to be operating out of Bulgaria.

Mr Bernhard has indicated that the company's business model could be extended to other countries.

"We are looking at a test pilot in the US elections but considering expanding to Germany and the UK - they are big markets for us.

"People need an incentive to vote. It is your vote, you can throw it away or destroy your ballot paper, so why can't you sell it?" he asked rhetorically.

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See also:

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Gore goes on the warpath
18 Oct 00 | Americas
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10 Oct 00 | Americas
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