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State Nixes Online Vote "Auction"

The auction for Aaron Fischer's vote this November opened at $3.99.

"Influence the political climate like never before in this November's historical Presidential Election!" read the Catonsville man's auction posting on eBay. "To the highest bidder, YOUR VOTE IS MY VOTE!"

Fischer also offered to video himself casting his ballot "to ensure your vote counts." He asked for "serious bidders only!" and would accept payment only by PayPal.

Last month, Fischer's intriguing approach was brought to the attention of Maryland election officials, who promptly called the auction Web site and informed its marketing officials that vote selling is illegal. EBay devised software that detects offers to sell votes, and Fischer's auction, posted July 9, was shut down.

So were auctions using similar language from potential vote sellers in Salem, Ohio, Chicago and a handful of other places. (Bids for the Chicago auction opened at 99 cents and had climbed to $10 by the time banksyinchicago's posting was removed. Milkman333 in Ohio had a starting bid of $1,000 that had not budged.)

"I told eBay that all 50 states have similar laws on selling your vote," said Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance for the Maryland State Board of Elections. "I suggested that as it gets closer to the election, more people might try to do this."

When contacted by The Washington Post by e-mail, Fischer asked how the case became public but declined to answer questions.

DeMarinis said he was tipped off by a man from Minnesota who became suspicious when he came across Fischer's auction while cruising the eBay site. DeMarinis said he immediately looked up Fischer's name on the state's list of voters to confirm that he is registered in Maryland.

Then DeMarinis referred the case to the state prosecutor's office.
DeMarinis called the eBay auction a "double hit on illegality": Vote selling is a felony under Maryland law, and cameras are prohibited in the voting booth to protect the secrecy of the vote.

Elections administrator Linda H. Lamone notified the Board of Elections of the case at its July meeting.

Although his eBay auction drew plenty of attention at the Board of Elections, it was not as successful online: The $3.99 starting bid moved only a penny.

By Anne Bartlett  |  August 11, 2008; 1:34 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Elections , Lisa Rein  
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