January 05, 2001, 11:14 AM — A controversial Web site that drew the ire of election officials in the U.S. for purportedly offering to auction off blocks of votes to the highest bidder now claims the whole idea was just a game.
In a statement posted on the site yesterday, the Austrian operators of Vote-auction.com said they had ended their "grand -- or perhaps more accurately, notorious -- game." Many of the U.S. residents who signed up to sell their votes "acted as if they had actually considered it a real business," the statement added. "In fact, it was . . . a real-life game for voters who finally had found a way to think about what their vote is worth on the free market, and to themselves."
Vote-auction.com was initially launched by a graduate student in New York, who sold it to the Austrian group last month after the Web site was ordered to be shut down by a judge in Illinois. The site, which also had run afoul of election officials in California and New York, was then relaunched by the Austrians under a different URL.
Earlier this week, a state court judge in Boston issued another injunction against the site, acting on a civil complaint that was filed last Friday by the Massachusetts attorney general's office. The complaint charged that the site's offer to let voters register to sell their votes in blocks broken down by different states was illegal.
In their statement, the new owners of Vote-auction.com said they "are sure" that the various court cases against the Web site will eventually be dropped. "It will be obvious, even to the legal folk, that there are people out there buying and selling votes -- but that it is not us," the statement said.
Vote-auction.com also posted the results of its auction offer, but the statement said users "will have to be quick to access the site." The whole affair will be "put . . . into real legal context" today, it added.