The Internet is very much like the wild wild west, where anything goes, despite its growing importance in the field of politics and political information. Domain names are at the forefront of this Wild West mentality of the Internet, with people cyber-squatting on domain names, either for profit or to cause harm to certain political groups, candidates, or campaigns. While some domain registrars try their best to combat cybersquatting, there is still a lot of work to be done before we can get rid of them completely. However, Monolith Registry is promoting a new top-level domain, dotVOTE (.VOTE) and its Spanish/Italian/Portuguese equivalent, dotVOTE (.VOTO), with safeguards to prevent political cybersquatting.
The advent of .Vote domains means that now there is an authoritative domain name for all political parties, for campaigns, candidates, elected officials, and organizations to put their information online. Rather than having to go to Candidate A’s website at a .com or .net domain, which may or may not be owned by them, individuals will now be able to go to CandidateA.vote. In addition to .vote domains, there are .voto domains for websites in Spanish or Portuguese as well.
.Vote and .Voto domains are not just sold off to anyone, like most domains. Instead, these domains are only sold to those who can prove that they have a connection to the name being sought. For example, Joe Blow could not purchase the domain name JimConrad.vote unless he was authorized to do so by a political candidate by that name. While this might seem like a needless security measure, it is in fact something that is needed in today’s world of online retail politics. There are numerous stories of domain names for political candidates being used against those very candidates, which hardly seems fair.
For example, JebBushForPresident.com is owned by two men who use it to advocate for LGBT issues rather than as a site promoting the presidential candidacy of Jeb Bush. If you were to visit TedCruz.com, expecting to find information about the U.S. Senator from Texas, you would instead be met with a plea to “Support President Obama” for “Immigration Reform Now”. Suffice it to say, this is not an effort intended to help Ted Cruz or to inform voters about his positions. Two years ago Republicans secured the domain names for a number of Democrat candidates and turned them into fundraising websites for Republicans. The tactic has become commonplace because it is considered embarrassing and misleading, but it is nevertheless an issue.
Chuck Warren, Monolith Registry’s managing member, and the innovative mind behind the .Vote/.Voto domain has had a long career in politics, but his idea about politically-specific domains came to him more than six years ago, “I got the idea about six years ago attending ICANN meetings for a client. ICANN was discussing the release of new top level domains. To me these new ones had to meet the needs of a unique or niche market.” He saw a market for these domains long before cyber-squatting had become a routine and well-known issue for the political world. “Websites are only trusted if the information they convey is authoritative. With .Vote or .Voto, we ensure that only the person with the authority has the ability to buy that website domain name.” Chuck Warren has a record of working in the Republican Party, but he certainly did not limit the domain’s reach to his party of choice. “Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and Third Parties would be wise to purchase .Vote or .Voto domains because it protects them from election shenanigans. This is as true for Ross Perot and Gary Johnson as it is for Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton.”
Chuck Warren has worked in politics in the United States exclusively, but he has high hopes that this project will cross international borders. “It isn’t only available in the United States”, he said, “We’re making it available in all Spanish speaking countries for anyone from any party. We’re excited to see the growth in Central and South America, especially.”
Warren said that everyone will work diligently to ensure that no .Vote or .Voto domains would land in the wrong hands. He claimed they would check and double-check the registrants, do audits to ensure the websites remained in the right hands, and remove domains from the possession of those who improperly obtained them, if that ever happened. He was incredibly serious about maintaining the integrity of the domain and not allowing it to be, “cheapened by political trickery”.
Eligible trademark holders can register for a relevant domain name now, with general release to the public for .Vote and .Voto occurring on February 17th. Individuals will be able to buy the domains at www.CampaignButler.org or other registrars at www.Get.Vote or www.Get.Voto.