Site Lets Nader-Kerry Supporters Trade Votes
October 21, 2004 8:15 PM
After the controversial 2000 Bush election win, third-party supporters say they have some soul searching to do before casting their vote.
Should they vote for their third-party candidate and risk losing the White House to a president opposed to their ideas? Or should they vote for the big Democratic candidate and buy into the two party system?
Third-party votes can have the best of both worlds with an influx of websites promoting “vote-pairing.”
The premise for vote-pairing, also known as vote trading or vote-swapping, is simple. A third-party candidate voter in a swing state offers to trade votes with a Kerry voter in a secure state. Thus, the third party candidate gets the same amount of popular votes, while maximizing the amount of Kerry votes in states where some feel the Electoral system marginalizes the will of the people.
“In Florida, a Nader supporter’s vote for Nader is a principled act of futility that feels good and sends a message,” said SF State Political Science Professor Richard DeLeon. “But only at the risk of spoiling the Kerry vote and possibly helping to elect the greater of two evils. If only he or she could cast that Nader vote in a safe Democratic state like California where it could be counted in the final tallies and yet do no political harm.”
While there are several websites designed to pair voters together, the largest is VotePair.org. After signing up with the site, voters are paired off.
“We give [participants] each other’s e-mail addresses, help them get in contact with each other, and help each other to vote strategically,” said Amy Morris, a member of the VotePair.org political analysis committee. “Which means the swing state voter would vote for Kerry, and the secure state voter would vote for a third-party candidate.”
According to Morris, “the concept has caught on in a gigantic way. We have over 3,500 registered people from Utah. It’s really intense. The mayor of Salt Lake City said something about registering for Votepair.org.”
VotePair.org statistics show that over 12,000 people have registered with the site, but so far only about 1,500 pairs have been made. Morris said the disparity is due to the fact that there are many more Kerry voters than there are third-party voters in swing states.
There is no guarantee that your voting partner will go vote according to the deal, but the site offers several suggestions for judging your partner’s validity.
According to the site, “if you think your pair partner is an imposter, there’s a simple solution: don’t do it. You can simply say ‘no, thank you’ and start over again.”
The prospective vote trader would be given a new trading partner right away.
“I’m thinking, if I vote for Nader rather than for Kerry, I would have little to lose whatever my partner does, and I would gain the satisfaction of knowing there’s at least an increased likelihood, based on the pledge, that he or she will vote for Kerry rather than for Nader in a state where that switch might have an impact at the margins.”
The website, and the concept of vote-pairing, has fielded accusations of illegitimacy.
“It’s illegal to do this,” said Leo Locayo, spokesperson from the Bay Area chapter of the Republican Party. “Your vote is your vote, and you vote where you live. It’s not a matter of maximizing or minimizing…you’re just not supposed to do it. It’s not very democratic. Each person has their vote in their territory, and that’s just the way our country is.”
The controversy over vote-pairing is nothing new. A number of vote-pairing websites in place during the 2000 presidential election were issued cease-and-desist letters from Republican Bill Jones, then Secretary of State of California.
According to the VotePair.org website, vote-pairing “is a form of political association and expression protected by the First Amendment. No state even tried to make vote-pairing or ‘vote-trading’ illegal in 2000 and none of the tens of thousands of people who did it were ever prosecuted for anything.”
Meanwhile, thousands continue to use vote-pairing websites.
“I support Kerry,” said Benjamin Friedman, a recent UC Berkeley graduate and registered user of VotePair.org. “I would tend to support a candidate for the Green Party in terms of my politics, but this really is a strategic vote to move the country more towards policies I want. I really feel like it’s an adult decision to realize how much you have to compromise. To make a relatively better decision as opposed to what you really want to do. I just really hope people use it,” Friedman added, “So people can really vote their lack of support for mainstream, corporate-supported Democratic party, and but still keep Bush from getting the office.”
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