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Wednesday October 4 7:43 PM ET
Chicago Tries To Shut Vote Web Site Chicago Tries To Shut Vote Web Site

By DON BABWIN, Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO (AP) - Mindful of the city's history as a place where elections have been bought, Chicago officials are trying to shut down a Web site that offers votes to the highest bidder.

The Board of Elections sent letters on Tuesday to federal and state prosecutors, saying that the site should be shut down.

``In Chicago we react strongly and quickly to this type of activity - whether it's tongue-in-cheek or not - because we need to guard our reputation here that this is a place where voting activity is legal and above board and beyond reproach,'' board chairman Langdon Neal said. provides ``a forum for campaign contributors and voters to come together in a free market exchange,'' according to the site. says it will collect absentee ballots from voters, verify them, and then sell them to the highest bidder who can ``choose who the group will vote for en masse.'' Sellers then receive money depending on how much is bid.

So far, the site boasts that 8,313 voters nationwide have signed up - 380 in Illinois. The price tag thus far in Illinois, according to the Web site, is $15.79 a vote or $6,000 for the state.

California, the national prize because of its 54 electoral college votes, has a high bid of $22,000 offered to make the choice for 1,230 voters. The Web site notes that it is not valid in New York after that state questioned its legality.

Neal said there is no indication any money or ballots have changed hands. Nor, he said, is there any way to verify how many voters have signed up or even contacted the Web site. But, he said, ``we don't think it can work.''

The U.S. Attorney's office has forwarded the board's letter to the Department of Justice in Washington, and the state's attorney's office would only say it received the letter.

A New York graduate student, James Baumgartner, launched the site this summer and said it wasn't really meant to work, at the time.

``It was more to make a point that the campaign financing system operates as a business,'' he said.

Neal said while others may think the site is funny, ``To us it is not, particularly because of the history of Chicago.''

Stopping it, though, may be tough. The site has been sold to a Vienna businessman, Hans Bernhard who, Baumgartner said, is ``in Austria and the server is in Bulgaria, so he thinks he's outside the jurisdiction'' of any American board of elections.

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