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US rules vote swapping legal

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A US court has ruled that websites set up to allow people to swop their votes are legal and protected by the Constitution.

Back in the heady days of 2000, prior to the election of George W Bush, a couple of websites were set up to allow supporters of independent candidate Ralph Nader and of Democrat candidate Al Gore to trade their votes in order to maximise the anti-Republican vote.

The websites were quickly closed before the election on grounds that they were trading, or buying, votes. But the 9th US Court of Appeals said the decision to shut the sites, after legal threats from the state of California, was a violation of the First Amendment because the sites were not seeking to buy or sell votes. The two main sites were voteswap2000.com (now closed) and Votexchange2000.com.

The modern version of tactical voting, promoted in the UK by the Lib Dems, could be resurrected for Brown's next election.

Gore infamously lost Florida by some 500 votes - if the site had still been running maybe the result would have been different.

Although California was the first to act against the websites other states took the opposite view - this latest decision may make things clearer for the next US election.

A Liberal Democrat Party Spokesperson told the Reg: "Unfortunately, Britain has an unfair voting system where many people feel they have to resort to methods such as this to make their voices heard. However, we would prefer it if everyone who supports the Liberal Democrats votes for the Liberal Democrats."

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