Magazine article Newsweek

Meet Nader's Traders: How 'Vote Swapping' Web Sites Could Change Politics

Magazine article Newsweek

Meet Nader's Traders: How 'Vote Swapping' Web Sites Could Change Politics

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Breslau

Cindy Layne wants Al Gore to win. That, says the Austin, Texas, financial consultant, is why she's voting for Ralph Nader. Her Gore "vote" will be cast some 1,700 miles away, in a suburb of Portland, Ore., by Charlie Levenson, a man she contacted last week through voteswap2000.com. "I was going to vote for Nader," says Levenson. "But then if Bush won, I would feel really terrible." Instead, Levenson will vote for Gore in Oregon, where the race is tied, while Layne racks one up for Nader in Texas, where Gore has little chance of winning.

Confused? The Founding Fathers might be scratching their heads, too, if they saw how 21st-century voters are using the Internet to finesse the Colonial-era Electoral College. Layne and Levenson were among thousands who flocked last week to brand-new Web sites, trying to strategically redistribute Gore and Nader votes--state by state--in order to defeat George W. Bush and to help Nader win the 5 percent of the popular vote the Green Party needs to qualify for federal matching funds in 2004. "This," says Michael Cornfield of George Washington University's Democracy Online Project, "is the political equivalent of Napster."

Instead of trading music, voters are swapping political opinions, the killer app that may finally demonstrate the Internet's potential as a political tool. But just as Napster alarmed the music-publishing industry--leading to lawsuits--the political establishment pounced last week to reassert its own authority. …

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