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A constitutional law scholar whose ideas helped inspire Internet “vote exchanges” between supporters of Al Gore and Ralph Nader blasted the California secretary of state on Tuesday for cracking down on Voteswap2000.com. The site was shut down Monday night after its creators received a letter from state officials accusing them of “corruption of the political process” and “criminal conspiracy.” “It’s so outrageous this Republican secretary of state would decide to step on core-protected First Amendment political expression,” says American University law professor Jamin Raskin, a specialist in constitutional law and the political process. “I’m just in a state of shock.” Jim Cody of Los Angeles, co-creator of Voteswap2000, took down the site Monday night after receiving a letter from Secretary of State Bill Jones’ office, warning him that the operation was committing felonies that carry a maximum penalty of three years in state prison for each violation. “I guess that would be three years each for 5,000 violations,” Cody says, referring to the number of voters who had registered on the site, which automatically matches Gore supporters in Republican strongholds, such as Texas, with Nader fans in swing states who fear that their votes could indirectly help put Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the White House. Voteswap2000, one of a small number of vote-swapping sites that have sprouted in recent weeks, was designed to boost Gore’s presidential prospects while helping Nader achieve the Green Party’s goal of receiving 5 percent of the popular vote, thus qualifying the party for federal matching funds. Even as Jones was cracking down in California, however, similar sites have sprouted up, including WinWinCampaign.org and Votexchange.com. The latter, according to Cody, is based in California and also shut down after Cody warned them of Jones’ response. Internet chain letters also have been promoting the vote-trading idea. Jones is the only Republican holding statewide office in California, a fact that Raskin suggests might be coloring his legal interpretation of the sites. “He’s essentially saying that if a husband and wife trade their votes they are involved in a criminal conspiracy,” Raskin says. “This is the first I’ve heard of any governmental account that Gore and Nader votes engaging in political dialog is somehow unconstitutional.” According to news reports, Jones said Tuesday that any “inducement” to vote a certain way is illegal under California law. His chief counsel, William Wood, was quoted as saying, “In this case, the valuable consideration would be the vote itself.” Raskin, for his part, argues that “vote swapping” is merely shorthand for a thoughtful, reasonable political expression that allows voters to cast ballots strategically. “My idea was not about vote trading,” he says. “It was about creating a political dialog between Nader supporters and Gore supporters.” Raskin first broached the subject in a commentary Oct. 24 on Slate.com, unaware that one bulletin board exchange already had been launched on the Web on Oct. 1, and that another, NaderTrader.org, went up the same day his article appeared. Cody said he reacted quickly but reluctantly to the secretary of state’s threats. “It wasn’t a comfortable evening, I’ll put it that way.” Related Articles from The Industry Standard: Vote Swapping for Gore Dot-Gov: Poisoning the Grass Roots The Search for E-mocracy Copyright � 2000 The Industry Standard

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