Vote Swapping

Issue 218

New App Brings Together Voters Across State Lines

Bianca Fortis Oct 22, 2016

Vote swapping is one method progressive voters are using to help ease their consciences this election. It allows them to be pragmatic without entirely surrendering their progressive principles.  

The idea of strategic vote swapping debuted during the 2000 election, when “Nader Trader” websites popped up on the internet. The legality of websites was challenged but the courts ruled that vote pairing is protected as a form of free speech.

The goal of the Nader Trader sites was to help Ralph Nader, running on the Green Party line, secure the 5 percent of the popular vote required to be eligible for federal matching funds without pulling votes away from Al Gore in swing states.

It didn’t work — but it’s worth trying again, according to John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes, who are behind the #NeverTrump app. They’re also the brains behind Republicans for Clinton, a group whose sole goal is to defeat Donald Trump.

Although they’ve been encouraging conservative voters, particularly those inclined to vote for Gary Johnson, to use the app, Stubbs said they’re interested in “anyone and everyone who believes that Donald Trump should not be president” — including disillusioned millennials and Green Party supporters who favor Stein.

“It’s about recognizing that in an election when it’s going to come down to two people, voting for Stein or voting for Johnson. . . does the same thing — nothing,” he said.

In Canada, vote swapping may actually have swung the vote last year in favor of now-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a hard-fought three-way race, Stubbs said. Voters don’t need to use the app or find a stranger to swap votes with, Stubbs added. If they connect with individuals they already know who happen to live in swing states, that works too.

One of the main challenges to vote swapping is that it relies on the honor system. In theory, a swapper could renege on a promise to vote for a certain candidate, or even trade votes with multiple unsuspecting individuals, resulting in even more votes for his or her candidate of choice.

New York City author and activist Gan Golan published a tongue-in-cheek article on the blog site that advocated for a more extreme version of vote pairing, which he coined the “VOTE-4-ACTION Swap,” and which requires liberals to actively protest in exchange for a Clinton vote cast by a radical.

“To fulfill their oath, the Liberal has to actually get beaten and/or arrested while protesting so please be patient as it may take more than one try,” Golan writes. “To ensure the integrity of this agreement, the Radical gets their new Liberal BFF’s personal phone number, email and home address and is granted the full legal right to harass them until they show up in the streets.”

Golan said the idea was borne of frustration when he saw Hillary voters using the threat of a Trump presidency to blackmail Bernie Sanders supporters into supporting her — essentially asking progressives to vote for Hillary without giving anything in return.

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