Chicago Board Tries to Close Vote Site

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners today said it requested federal and state attorneys to shut down a Web site that offers votes to the highest bidder in this year's presidential election.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney Scott Lazar and Cook County State Attorney Richard Devine, the Board sought "quick action" to prevent Voteauction.com from continuing operations in Chicago and Illinois. Under Illinois law, it's a felony to buy and sell votes; violators face one to three years in prison, according to the board. It's also a federal violation, punishable with up to five years in prison.

Voteauction.com is an Internet marketplace for the wholesale purchase of votes. It recruits voters, auctions their votes off in state groups and ensures absentee ballots are accurate.

The site was founded because money for the presidential election was being wasted on advertising, said James Baumgartner, the site's founder. "Voters were being treated as a commodity and they might as well get money for it," Baumgartner said.

The site claims 10,137 voters nationwide have signed up. Illinois has 521 voters signed up, quoting $16.31 for each vote. New York is the lone state not part of the site because its Board of Elections shut down the site there in August.

But Baumgartner said he sold Voteauction.com to Hans Bernhard, an Austrian businessman, in August. Additionally, Voteauction.com is protected by the court case of Buckley v. Valeo, which allowed for soft money, Baumgartner said.

"This is a more direct form of soft money, and soft money is legal so the site is just as legal," he said.

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