A Web site in the US is allowing voters to auction votes online, in a scheme that, according to reports, is likely to cross over to the UK and Germany.
Voteauction.com allows voters to sell their votes anonymously online for $19.61 (£13.40). The company claims to be "bringing capitalism and democracy closer together".
The rationale behind the site is that voters control campaign spending by registering votes to be sold. Campaign contributors, rather than donating money to campaign consultants who take a cut for themselves, buy votes directly off the public. Winning bidders for voters in each US state -- who must be registered individuals, corporations or organisations -- then choose who the group votes for en masse.
According to the company Web site: "The value of a vote in a particular state could change on a daily basis. Votes have been purchased in the past (in fact the United States has a long history of vote buying going back to George Washington) but it has never taken this form."
The site is currently under investigation by authorities in California. It claims that "spending money to influence voters is protected by the free speech clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution".
The chief executive of Voteauction's parent company Hans Bernard confirmed that the site was considering expanding to the UK and Germany. Each potentially represents a large market. According to reports he said the site was not anti-democratic, as money was regularly spent on influencing politicians, but was a "closed circuit". But with Voteauction, investors can target the electorate directly.
A spokesman for the Electoral Reform Society, according to reports, said that in the UK it is a criminal offence to bribe electors or to "seek to give money to influence an election".
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