Election officials poke around Facebook vote-swapping group

Canada's election watchdog is probing whether a vote-swapping group set up on Facebook is illegal or just strategic voting.

Canada's election watchdog is probing whether a vote-swapping group set up on Facebook is illegal or just strategic voting.

The online group, titled "Anti-Harper Vote Swap Canada," is trying to match Canadians who are willing to swap votes to keep the Conservatives from winning a majority in the Oct. 14 federal election.

More than 1,200 people had become members of the group by early Friday evening, two days after its creation.

Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand said Friday that Elections Canada is looking into the scheme.

In an interview with Canadian Press, Mayrand said it may be nothing more than "organized strategic voting," but it could also fall afoul of a law prohibiting people from selling votes or accepting bribes for them.

"Right now, we have very little information," Mayrand said about the group.

The group lists 41 ridings likely to be tight races and encourages members to swap votes in order to stop Tories from winning those seats.

Winnipeg South is cited as an example. In that riding, the Liberals have a better chance of beating the Conservatives than the NDP do, so an NDP supporter could agree to vote Liberal in exchange for a Liberal voting NDP in rural Alberta, where the Liberals don't stand a chance.

"In terms of morality — yes, this is a perfectly moral thing to do," Mat Savelli, who is listed as the administrator of the group, wrote on Thursday.

"We are all simultaneously choosing the lesser evil while still supporting the party we believe in," he said in response to a post that questioned the morality of the group's tactics.

Savelli said he got the vote-swapping idea from American friends who saw it become popular on various websites during the 2000 presidential election campaign.

U.S. courts cleared the way for the practice despite protests and attempts to get rid of such sites.

Under the Canada Elections Act, it is an offence to offer or take a bribe for a vote or improperly provide or be in the possession of a ballot.

With files from the Canadian Press