[sixties-l] website update (fwd)

From: Matthew J. Countryman (mcountry@umich.edu)
Date: 11/04/00

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    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2000 01:23:28 -0500 (EST)
    From: Matthew J. Countryman <mcountry@umich.edu>
    To: hist.fac@umich.edu, historians@umich.edu
    Cc: AC.Brown.Bags <ac.brown.bags@umich.edu>, caas.fac@umich.edu
    Subject: website update (fwd)
    I recently wrote about a project some friends and I started to enable
    progressive votes to vote strategically by swaping Gore votes in Michigam
    a swing state, for Nader votes in states certain to go for Bush or Gore.
    As you may know, there has been a fair amount of controversy of the
    legality of such voter swaps.  Our website, www.nadergore.org, was shut
    down briefly today by order of the New York State Board of Elections,
    which made the argument that we were indirectly trading votes for campaign
    dollars since our goal was to win federal matching funds for the Green
    Party in the 2004 election.   We were able to convince the board to allow
    us to reestablish the site but only by agreeing to stop matching New York
    We are, however, continuing to accept Michigan participants-- in fact we
    have quotes from a spokesperson from the Michigan Secretary of State's
    office declaring the site fully legal. The U.S. Department of Justice has
    also stated that vote-exchange plans such as this one are completely
    legal. Thus, we desperately need to recruit Gore supporters from blowout
    states other than New York so that we find matches for the hundreds of
    Michiganders who have already signaled their desire to participate in the
    vote swap.  If you live in one of the following states and would be
    willing to switch your vote from Gore to Nader, please check out our
    website.  Or if you know of any Gore supporters in one of those states
    would be willing to vote for Nader in return for Nader supporter switching
    to Gore in Michigan, please pass the word.  The states are: AL, AK, AZ,
    CT, DC, HI, ID, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MS, MT, NE, ND, OK, RI, SC, SD, TX,
    UT, VT, WY.  The website will explain how you can be matched with a 
    Michigan voter.  We will give you the Michigan voter's email address and
    phone number so you can directly correspond with the person to be assured
    that s/he will change her/his vote.  
    This innovative plan has received considerable media attention in Michigan
    and we anticipate recruiting over 1000 Michigan Nader supporter willing to
    exchange votes.  We need your help to attract a similar number of Gore
    supporters in blowout states. We don't want to wake up on November 8th
    with the same sinking feeling in our stomachs that we had the day after
    Reagan was elected in 1980!  Thanks.  Matthew
    I have included a FAQ written by the Legal Director of the Michigan
    discussing the legal issues inherent in vote swapping
    We have researched the issue and we strongly believe that the program
    (1) does not violate any election laws and (2) is protected by the First
    Amendment. This is a voluntary voter exchange project. No one is being
    forced or threatened to participate.  Additionally, no "valuable
    consideration" is being given or promised by anyone.
    The Michigan Secretary of State's office has stated that nadergore.org
    does not violate Michigan law.  "Our election law prohibits the buying
    or selling of votes, " said Elizabeth Boyd of the Michigan Secretary of
    State's office.  "It does not regulate informal agreements of who the
    voter will vote for."  Boyd said with sites like nadergore.org, "people
    aren't exchanging anything of value and are just persuading voters to
    vote a certain way."  See 11/2/00 Oakland Press article 
    Similarly, a spokesperson at the U.S. Justice Department, which
    investigates potential instances of voter fraud, has said that
    vote-exchange web sites are legal because they "serve as a clearing
    house. There is no pecuniary exchange, and it is an agreement amongst
    private parties, no legal violation there in terms of violation fraud.
    It definitely is an innovative campaign technique, to say the least."  See
    MSNBC article of 10/27.)
    According to Chris Watney of the Justice Department, such vote trades
    are kosher as far as the law is concerned. "In general, it's a crime to
    promise voters anything of value if they vote a certain way," she said.
    "So this system, where no money is exchanged, is OK."  See article "Vote
    Trade: The Democratic Way" posted at www.wired.com, posted 2:00 a.m.
    Oct. 31, 2000 PST.
    Unfortunately, the California Secretary of State and the New York Board
    of Elections have attempted to prevent voters in California and New York
    from participating in voter exchanges.
    On October 30, the California Secretary of State of California shut down
    two of our sister sites based in California, voteswap2000.com and
    votechange2000.com, asserting that the web sites violated California
    law.  On November 2, the ACLU of Southern California and San Diego and
    Imperial Counties, with the help of renowned Harvard Law Professor
    Lawrence Tribe, filed suit against the California Secretary of State
    claiming that he was violating the First Amendment.  See press release
    with link to the ACLU complaint and brief. The case is pending.
    Although New York has an election law that is similar to the Michigan
    law and federal law, and despite the Justice Department and the Michigan
    Secretary of State's opinions, the New York Board of Elections sent an
    email to us on the evening of November 2 claiming that our program
    violated New York law.  Although we strongly disagree with the
    interpretation, we have agreed to stop accepting requests of New York
    voters to be matched.  Instead we will match Michigan Nader voters with
    voters from other "blowout" states.
    In our view, the New York state and California interpretations of the law
    would lead to absurd results.  Under their interpretation of the
    law, all of the following behavior would be made criminal:
         ^U Two spouses discuss their vote, realize they disagree on every
    important issue, and agree that, since they're canceling one another
    out, neither will vote.
         ^U Two friendly legislators who disagree with one another's
    positions arrange not to vote on two separate occasions, when one, then
    the other, is absent, thus canceling out the effect of their absences on
    the final decisions made.
         ^U A politician such as Governor George Bush or Vice President Al
    Gore offers a monetary inducement in the form of a tax cut to a voter.
         ^U A politician, during tough economic times, promises "a chicken in
    every pot" if voters cast their vote for him.
    ^U A political columnist urges voters to do exactly what the web
    sites in question urge them to do.
         ^U One politician agrees to vote for a rival's bill with which she
    disagrees in exchange for the rival voting in favor of a different bill
    that she sponsored.
    Matthew J. Countryman
    Assistant Professor of History and American Culture
    1029 Tisch Hall 1003
    University of Michigan
    Ann Arbor, MI 48109
    734 647-2434

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