Vote swapping is back.

A group of liberal activists has created a Web site that helps John F. Kerry's and Ralph Nader's supporters trade votes in this year's election -- in the hopes of defeating President Bush.

The site, VotePair (www.votepair.org), introduces Nader supporters who live in swing states to Kerry backers from non-battleground states. The participants agree to vote for each other's candidates, in an elaborate attempt to maximize the Democratic nominee's chances of winning the November election without, in the process, taking votes away from Nader.

"Bush was able to win in the electoral college because of the way progressive votes were distributed across the country," the site says. "If 600 voters who cast ballots for Nader in Florida had instead voted for Gore and 600 voters who cast ballots for Gore in Texas had instead voted for Nader, George W. Bush would have lost the entire election."

The site is reminiscent of a number of vote-trading Web sites that first emerged during the 2000 contest. Elections officials in several states declared the sites illegal, saying they violated laws prohibiting bartering for ballots. Some of the sites were shut down; others lasted through the election. In all, about 36,000 Nader and Gore supporters traded votes, according to Jamin Raskin, an American University law professor who is advising VotePair. Because of the secret ballot, his estimate cannot be confirmed.

Raskin predicted that the group, which said it has signed up 400 voters since its launch earlier this week, would face similar legal challenges this year.

"We're hopeful that government officials will not try to interfere with political speech and association during a presidential election," he said. "But the behavior of some of these secretaries of state leaves us a bit apprehensive."

HBO Cries Foul at Baseball Clip

It wasn't HBO. It was a campaign ad.

Well, actually, it was both. President Bush's campaign this week posted on its Web site a video clip of him throwing out the first pitch at a Yankees game not long after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- and that annoyed the people at HBO, which owns the copyrighted footage.

The four-minute clip was lifted from the cable channel's new documentary "Nine Innings From Ground Zero," which explores the return of World Series baseball to New York after the attacks. It featured the president recalling a few throwing tips he got from Yankees All-Star Derek Jeter, the crowd's welcome as Bush stepped to the mound and a rousing endorsement from one of the other team's players.

"President Bush is standing out there like a brick wall. 'I'm not afraid of terrorists. I'm going to stand out here and I'm going to give you a thumbs-up and I'm going to throw a strike,' " said Arizona Diamondback Mark Grace, recalling the game.

Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman e-mailed supporters last Saturday, alerting them to the clip. "It is important to remember the times we have been through together," he wrote. "This film, in many ways, serves as a reminder of our shared experience."

But HBO spokesman Raymond Stallone said his channel did not approve this message. "We did not grant permission," he said in a statement. "We have sent a letter asking the Web site to remove the footage." The Bush campaign removed the clip yesterday.

Second Thoughts in W.Va.

The Republicans have their Zell Millers, too. One of West Virginia's five Republican electors said he might withhold his electoral college vote for George W. Bush even if the president wins in the pivotal state.

The elector, South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb, objects to the war in Iraq and to layoffs in his town. Likewise, the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay organization, said it won't endorse Bush this year because of his opposition to same-sex marriage. The group endorsed Bush in 2000.

Quotable

"I wouldn't be surprised if he appeared in the next month."

-- Teresa Heinz Kerry to the Phoenix Business Journal, referring to a possible capture of Osama bin Laden before Election Day.