Join 3,555 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Trading 3rd party votes in swing states for votes in
October 17, 2004 12:20 PM   Subscribe

VotePair.org allows third party voters in swing states to trade their vote with Kerry supporters in uncontested states. The result is that Kerry is more likely to win the swing states and third party candidates still get the same number of votes when tallied nationwide.
posted by freshgroundpepper (39 comments total)

 
Interesting... Just a question: Isn't this illegal? If not, it seems like it should be.
posted by Watsonne at 1:26 PM on October 17, 2004


Being discussed on FNC right now...someone from FreeRepublic and someone from VotePair are going back-n-forth, arguing over the legality of the site and the vote-pair process.

My gut says that it's not legal, but at the same time, I really don't see how it could be stopped. On the other hand, there is really no way that a "votepair" could be enforced. I mean, if John Doe in Florida promises to vote for Kerry, while in Texas I promise to vote for Badnarik in exchange, there is no way that either of us could be held to our promises. Ripe for abuse -- by either side.
posted by davidmsc at 1:29 PM on October 17, 2004


Legalities aside, it's a nice idea, but it didn't really work last time round.
posted by chicobangs at 1:47 PM on October 17, 2004


I dont think its a nice idea. Considering there is no proof of transaction, it can easily be abused.

The site claims no guarantees.
posted by skallas at 2:05 PM on October 17, 2004


Even assuming for the sake of argument that it is legal and could theoretically work, it seems like it is a perfect target to be gamed. I didn't sign up, but it seems like you're basically on the honor system - you're assumed to be telling the truth when you say you'll vote your pair vote. What's to stop tons of Republicans from signing up, agreeing to vote for Kerry or Badnarik, and then just voting for Bush anyway?
posted by RylandDotNet at 2:09 PM on October 17, 2004


Or, what skallas said.
posted by RylandDotNet at 2:09 PM on October 17, 2004


Illegal contracts are unenforceable by law. However, people make and keep them every day--cf. drug deals, for example.

I have to say that I think this is stupid beyond words, but whatever. I don't think it's illegal per se for people to say "I'll vote for Mickey Mouse if you vote for Donald Duck" or anything like that, just as it's not illegal per se for people to say "I'll sell you a nickel bag" or "I'm going to kill you" or "I love to have sex with three-year-olds".
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:20 PM on October 17, 2004


Well, the FAQ addresses some of the concerns that you all raise.

I had some of the same concerns as well, but I think that the potential risk/benefit is worth it. I personally have voted for 3rd party candidates for the last 3 elections that I was able to vote in. I also live in MN (a swing state) and would much rather see Kerry win over Bush.

Basically, I'm now going to vote for Kerry when I was vacillating between voting for Badnarik or Nader or Kerry (just to keep Bush out). This way, I feel my conscious is clear, I do what I can to prevent Bush from getting in, but I also get to show support for the 3rd party candidates that I'd much rather had a larger voice in the political process.

If someone is gaming the system, at worst a 3rd party candidate doesn't get a vote, but Kerry still gets my vote. Not a huge impact as the 3rd party candidate had no chance of winning anyway and just by the nature of using this web site, I'm voicing some support for other parties.
posted by freshgroundpepper at 2:23 PM on October 17, 2004


Sidhevil: I actually asked about that to my sister's boyfriend (a police sergeant) and he said for example demostrating intent to murder or steal or whatnot, even by threatening, is itself a crime. I've never heard of anything like that, though, I'm starting to wonder where he got the idea :P
posted by abcde at 3:45 PM on October 17, 2004


abcde, IANAL but I believe threatening to murder someone is illegal if the threat is sufficient enough to convince the "victim" that you are capable and willing.
posted by dobbs at 4:07 PM on October 17, 2004


Strategically redistricting until advantage is all but hopelessly stacked towards a given parties candidate: legal.

Strategically making a completely voluntary voting agreement with another citizen: illegal?

Other houghts: this is safe from Republican gaming. There is no danger whatsoever, for example, that my state will go to anyone other than Bush. If some Republican decided to decieve me and asked me to vote for Nader or Badnarik in return for a vote for Kerry, and then voted for Bush anyway, the scenario is that Kerry would still not get any of Utah's electoral votes, and the vote count of the deceitful trader's state wouldn't change either, because a Republican deceiver was going to vote for Bush all along anyway.

I'd worry more about minority candidate supporter gaming -- people who believe strongly in their minority candidate even though they know they're going to lose to cast a vote that way might be crazy enough to do it. Still, you have to come by a belief in a third party candidate honestly, so maybe integrity among their followers would make trading with a minority candidate supporter safer.
posted by weston at 4:30 PM on October 17, 2004


This type of thing makes me wonder why there isn't a more popular or aggressive movement to institute instant runoff voting in presidential elections.

It seems like such a reasonable step towards being able to vote for who you really want to take office and still not having to worry about the person you really don't want to take office winning because of it.

I suppose expecting the two major parties to support a measure that would undoubtedly give third parties an extensively greater level of support is overly idealistic.
posted by Wingy at 4:33 PM on October 17, 2004


One problem with this is that assholes are using it to give votes to, or take votes away from a particular candidate. At least one Bush supporter from this site has pretended to be a Nader voter from Ohio in order to get a Kerry voter to switch their vote.

What we really need is instant-runoff or approval voting.
posted by mosch at 4:44 PM on October 17, 2004


Illegal contracts are unenforceable by law. However, people make and keep them every day--cf. drug deals, for example.

drug deals are enforced at the lower end primarily by the market (you get a rep for cheating people and you'll run out of customers) and at the higher end primarily by the underground police system, ie, you'll get shot if you cheat the wrong guy.

This system is a one time thing where you'll never know if you were cheated or not and by people who would be unlikely to take significant action outside the legal system if they somehow found out they had been.
posted by mdn at 4:50 PM on October 17, 2004


What we really need is instant-runoff or approval voting.

Given all the problems voters had in just correctly voting for one candidate in 2000, what makes you think Americans will be able to not just vote and rank their choices correctly but understand how instant runoff voting works?
posted by gyc at 5:26 PM on October 17, 2004


At least one Bush supporter from this site has pretended to be a Nader voter from Ohio in order to get a Kerry voter to switch their vote.

So... in the safe-for-Bush state, where the Kerry voter switched to the Nader voter, Kerry will lose. Just like he was going to before. And in Ohio, the dishonest republican will vote as he was going to. Nothing has changed.

I suppose this could be a problem in close-for-Bush states or for-Kerry states, but hopefully the VotePair folks are smart enough not to try this.
posted by weston at 6:00 PM on October 17, 2004


what makes you think Americans will be able to not just vote and rank their choices correctly but understand how instant runoff voting works?

I'm not optimistic about this. I've presented approval voting to some relatively smart people (including the president of the company I work for, and a former Columbia neuroscience grad student) and they don't get it. You can argue that Concordet or Instant Runoff are simpler, but I think that most Americans are somehow culturally conditioned now to understand only plurality voting.
posted by weston at 6:03 PM on October 17, 2004


I tried this last election. I traded my vote with a Nader supporter. I don't see how it is a matter of legalities. It's a gentleman's agreement. A shake of the hand and each person is dependent on their own conscience. I have no way of verifying whether or not the Nader supporter I agreed with actually voted for Gore in the swing state or not. I know I held up my end of the bargain. Since Gore didn't win the electoral college despite winning the popular vote, it doesn't really matter.

Gore hadn't a snowball's chance in hell of winning Texas, so I didn't see how I had anything to lose. I thought if the Green party could win enough votes in this state it would make things easier for at least one third party next time around. This time the Green party didn't stand up to the plate, and Nader's off on his own as I understand it, so my strategic effort was pointless anyway. The way America's voting system exists, it doesn't give the individual much of a voice, unless they join a particularly noisy chorus. But then, it stops being an individual voice doesn't it? Kinda defeats the whole purpose.

This time around, a vote for anyone other than Kerry is a vote for Bush. Mathematics proves that. The only candidate who has a remote chance of getting Bush out of office is Kerry. I still wish we could vote for the best PERSON for the job and not the best party. I want a democracy where we get more than two choices, but this election isn't the election to fight for that. The actions of the Bush Administration have polarized the public far too much to allow undecided voters to spread their power too thin.

Third parties are in a desperate situation. Playing by the rules, they can't break into double digits, and the rules have been set up specifically to keep things that way. The deck has been stacked against them. The logical thing for third parties right now would be to get people to vote for them through this vote swapping thing, and then not swap. Just convince people to swap and then vote for your candidate anyway. In theory it would double the potential votes. And like I said, third parties are desperate. This isn't the election to be desperate.

You either want religion in politics, or you don't. You either want warmongering, or you don't. You either want to tie the hands of scientists and doctors for fear of playing god, or you don't. You either want Bush for four more years, or you don't. It's that simple.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:19 PM on October 17, 2004


I think that most Americans are somehow culturally conditioned now to understand only plurality voting.

Except that America already uses a system extensively more complex than simple plurality voting. Admittedly, a lot of Americans don't understand the electoral college either, but they function within the system and trust in it. If people can understand or at least function within the electoral college system they can definitely function within an instant runoff voting system.
posted by Wingy at 6:20 PM on October 17, 2004


This time around, a vote for anyone other than Kerry is a vote for Bush. Mathematics proves that.

Ok, this just flat out isn't true so we can stop repeating it. Mathematically, the benefit to Bush of voting for a third party instead of Kerry is 1/2 the benefit of voting for Bush instead of Kerry.

Also, that assumes a vote for Kerry as the default for people considering a third party candidate. The benefit for Bush of voting for a third party candidate instead of not voting at all is absolutely none.
posted by Wingy at 6:29 PM on October 17, 2004


Yeah, I'm tempted to sign up to keep someone in a swing state from going for Nader. Then I'd vote for Kerry anyway cause I want him to win the popular vote even if he loses the electoral vote.
posted by Slagman at 6:43 PM on October 17, 2004


"Yeah, I'm tempted to sign up to keep someone in a swing state from going for Nader. Then I'd vote for Kerry anyway ... "

Unlike you, virtually every Naderite I know would honor their pledge. Ironic, isn't it? And very telling.

I'm glad you posted that. I was almost going to vote for Kerry.
posted by RavinDave at 8:14 PM on October 17, 2004


I'm glad you posted that. I was almost going to vote for Kerry.

oh please - virtually every kerry supporter I know would honor their pledge, too - it's dependent on which nader or kerry supporters you know, not on who your candidate of choice is. Don't make a decision about your political priorities based on some random comment on a website.
posted by mdn at 8:25 PM on October 17, 2004


I don't know why anybody on the left would vote for Nader. Leaving aside the idea that it would effectively be a vote for Bush, Nader takes money from the very sort of Republican fat cats he supposedly is against. He's a tool of the right. Nader is an utter failure at building any sort of third party movement in America. His vote total in '00 was dismal and it will be even worse this year.

If you want to build a third party (something I, as a loyal Democrat, have no interest in) - it would be good to get a good candidate. Nationally, Ross Perot actually built a third party (only to have Buchanan wreck it). On a state basis, Jesse Ventura did it, and Ahnuld (for all his faults) certainly didn't run as a traditional Republican.

Instant runoff voting isn't happening. Neither is getting rid of the electoral college. These things just aren't going to happen. The far left liberals in this country have two ways to make their movement into a party: a) transform the Democratic party (people like me will resist you:) or b) get better candidates (not Nader).
posted by owillis at 8:34 PM on October 17, 2004


owillis ... it would effectively be a vote for Bush

When I hear this, it goes in one ear and out the other. It's a lame attempt to guilt me into voting for someone I loathe and tends to strengthen my resolve in the other direction. Be careful when you resort to this, because instead of having the desired effect you imagine -- it just as easily might persuade people like me to vote for Chimpy in an effort to purge the DNC of arrogance. I'd like nothing better than to see Terry McAullife set adrift on an ice floe. If it takes another 4 years of corporate rape-n-pillage to reform the DNC, I'm not so sure that isn't a fair trade.

In essense, you're saying I have no vote whatsoever unless I rubber-stamp a pre-ordained candidate in whom I had absolutely no input (since it was decided long before I was graciously "allowed" to vote).

And if Nader is cozying up to some Rightwing factions, you have no one to blame but yourselves. Instead of reaching out and co-opting Nader, you have been a petty, vindictive and divisive party; blackballing him from the political dialogue, fighting to keep him off ballots and making a mockery of the very principles you profess to believe. Anyone ever thought of maybe bringing him into the process by offering him a significant position in the Interior Department? Consumer Affairs? or such? Naw ... I'm starting to think you need Nader as a "spoiler". Much easier to blame him when your uninspiring, DNC-picked, galloping-to-the-center, never-did-squat-in-the-Senate candidate gets toasted next month.
posted by RavinDave at 9:31 PM on October 17, 2004


I said a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush because it's a vote against any sort of progressive ideal. I'm saying you should vote your conscience and what you believe the overall direction of the country should be. Even if you feel that should be a more liberal direction than John Kerry, your vote is wasted on Nader. Frankly, a vote for the Green or Libertarian party is much more of an honest vote than one for Nader. Nader is a tool of corporate interests.

By the way, I take exception to the widely held beliefs that at its heart, the Democrats really want people like Ralph Nader in charge. In fact, I reject that completely. We had a candidate like Nader in the primaries in the form of Dennis Kucinich - though I would posit that Rep. Kucinich is much more honest about his positions (no matter how realistic they may be). Kucinich lost, badly. If you had a vote in the primaries - you had a choice. If your "guy" lost, move on. Personally, I supported Dean though I voted for Edwards to make a statement about who I wanted Kerry to pick for his running mate.

The Democratic Party is not a socialist playground. It is the party of moderate liberalism. The last Democratic president balanced the budget, judiciously used military force, supported a woman's right to choose, a progressive tax code and acknowledged the existence of bias and made steps towards eradicating it. Al Gore stood for that, and so does Sen. Kerry, and whether Kerry wins or loses - so will the next Democratic candidate. For that matter, so does about half of the voting public.
posted by owillis at 10:56 PM on October 17, 2004


In observing this year's election it's interesting to note that fear has become a primary motivating factor across the political spectrum. Some will vote for Bush because they are afraid of terrorism and believe he is the only one who has developed a plan to protect them. Some will vote for Kerry instead of Nader (or another candidate) because they are so fearful of another Bush victory. Either way, fear controls the selection process.

For myself, I honestly don't feel the Dems have done anything substantial over the past four years to earn my vote. They have failed to become a party of choice, failed to organize themselves effectively, failed to stand up to Bush's policies and failed to inspire the people with any real sense of trust. How else does one explain the virtual dead heat of the polls?

Nearly every one of my friends has criticized me for "throwing my vote away" on Nader. They say this election is too important to vote for a third party. I say to hell with that. I'll be voting my conscience and for something I believe in. Can anyone claim that who feels forced to vote for Kerry? And I'll add (in a semi-nihilistic fashion) that if Bush wins then maybe the Dems need that to be a wake up call or a death knell for their party.
posted by quadog at 11:17 PM on October 17, 2004


Perhaps if the Democrats are foiled once again by Nader, they will be pissed off enough to develop the political will for pushing instant runoff in Congress.

But then again, if the choice is, in effect, between the possibility of instant runoff and another four years for Bush, I think this is a battle better fought in the McCain vs. Clinton election of tomorrowland. This time, my vote goes to Kerry.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:31 PM on October 17, 2004


4easypayments , how can the democrats do this? The state legislature decides how to give up its votes. States decide how its done. The national dem party sure as hell doesnt have every state legislature under its thumb to push legislation most people dont even consider an issue. Nor can the democrats try to push an amendment when they are the minority party in all three branches of the government.

I find this whole Nader-esque attitude of "4 more years of Bush will teach 'em" to be very naive, passive-aggressive, and disingenious. Kerry is about two steps to the right of Gore. The next candidate, assuming Kerry loses, will be to the right of him in order to court the moderate and swing voters who you NEED to win a national election.

I think salon.com's Talbot summarizes it very well:
OK, America, now that you've watched the last presidential debate, the choice should be perfectly clear -- even for you dazed undecideds still out there. On one side, we have a candidate who thinks we should have targeted Osama more than Saddam; we should allow cheaper prescription drugs to be imported from Canada; we should give women the right to choose and would not appoint any justice to the Supreme Court who feels differently; we should outlaw assault rifles; we should raise the minimum wage; we should uphold affirmative action; we should offer all Americans the same health coverage enjoyed by their elected leaders. And the other candidate? Well, he doesn't believe in any of that. But he isa man of deep faith. Oh, and he loves his wife and kids a whole lot.

If you're still confused about how to vote after tonight, maybe it would be better for you to go see "Team America" instead on election day.
posted by skallas at 11:42 PM on October 17, 2004


>And if Nader is cozying up to some Rightwing factions, you have no one to blame but yourselves

Come on now. I mean, Nader is grown man. He can decide to sell out on his own. I think you need to understand that Nader is a candidate just as much as Bush is, and will be treated as one. Why should a different political party with very different goals and beliefs (face it, the dems aint all that lefty anymore) treat him with kid gloves?

On top of it, the dems didn't go kung-fu on Nader's ass until all the signatures he brought to various states had names like "Donald Duck" signed on them, obviously from GOP supporters trying to get Nader on the ballot. One analysis showed a fraudulant rate of something like 40%.
posted by skallas at 11:46 PM on October 17, 2004


Also, here in liberal Chicago, the Nader movement is non-existant compared to 2000. I saw college students snub and even yell at the kid on the el platform trying to get signatures.

Nader could have dropped out from the obvious lack of support. He could have kept fighting by keeping his credibility, but he chose to work with the GOP and that was his undoing. His whole legacy has been pissed away.
posted by skallas at 11:48 PM on October 17, 2004


On top of it, the dems didn't go kung-fu on Nader's ass until all the signatures he brought to various states had names like "Donald Duck" signed on them, obviously from GOP supporters trying to get Nader on the ballot.

Sooo-ooo ... the GOP were trying to get him on the ballot by using obviously fake names guaranteed to be caught and discounted? What's wrong with this picture?
posted by RavinDave at 12:07 AM on October 18, 2004


Perhaps if the Democrats are foiled once again by Nader, they will be pissed off enough to develop the political will for pushing instant runoff in Congress.
Yes, if Democrats lose seats they'll push for a voting process that leads to the election of... less Democrats. Riiight.

Sooo-ooo ... the GOP were trying to get him on the ballot by using obviously fake names guaranteed to be caught and discounted? What's wrong with this picture?
You lie with dogs, you get fleas. The same people who pushed fraud in Florida are backing Nader. Connect the dots.
posted by owillis at 12:44 AM on October 18, 2004


> If it takes another 4 years of corporate rape-n-pillage to reform the DNC, I'm not so sure that isn't a fair trade.

"In order to save the country, it was necessary to destroy it."
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:08 AM on October 18, 2004


I encourage Nader voters in swing states to check out this program. It *IS* a good faith agreement, and votepair connects the paired voters by email.

I personally would ask my paired voter for a phone conversation to really get a good feeling for the person and satisfy myself that it was going to happen as planned.

There's a great scene in "The West Wing" about a character who accidentally votes for the wrong candidate. So in a fit of remorse, she finds a person intending to vote for the opposing candidate and talks him into voting for her candidate, all of which is done in a spirit of good faith.
posted by mikojava at 10:04 AM on October 18, 2004


Sooo-ooo ... the GOP were trying to get him on the ballot by using obviously fake names guaranteed to be caught and discounted? What's wrong with this picture?

You lie with dogs, you get fleas. The same people who pushed fraud in Florida are backing Nader. Connect the dots.

RavinDave's point was that there are no dots to be connected there. If GOP operatives want Nader on the ballot, they would get real signatures. "Donald Duck" signatures were obvoiusly collected by people who wanted Nader to think he was going to get on the ballot and stop collecting signatures, only to have a bunch of them thrown out and not get on the ballot after all. If the people who collected these signatures are operatives for any party, it would be the Democrats.
posted by kindall at 10:24 AM on October 18, 2004


Actually, most of the "Donald Duck" signatures come from three sources:

1) Signature collectors who are paid by the signature;
2) Passive-aggressive people who can't say "no thank you" but instead waste their time and the signature collector's by signing a false name;
3) Assholes who think it's funny to fool the signature collector.

And, re: threats: It's true that it's illegal to threaten to kill someone. However, simply observing that you are going to kill someone doesn't necessarily constitute a threat; and observing that you are going to kill a third party is very unlikely to constitute a threat.

It's actually very hard to get a conviction on the grounds of "threatening" in most US jurisdictions because the legal tests for it are pretty stringent.

It's true that threatening crimes is illegal; however, announcing your intent to commit a crime is not illegal. Nobody on VotePair is threatening to swap votes; rather, they're announcing their willingness to swap votes.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:36 AM on October 18, 2004


I'm pretty much nonviolent to a fault, but there are people I'm pretty sure I'd be willling to kill, if the proper circumstances and enticements lined up.

For example, Jodie Foster would have to totally double-dog promise to date me. None of this "signed 8x10 glossy saying thanks" crap. I'm talking dinner reservations, at least.


Now, to switch my vote (I'm not in a swing state neither), I'd be happy with a personalized e-mail from her.

So would I do vote-swap? Sure. I voted for Nader before. I would be willing to vote for him again (or Libertarian or Green or even Lyndon friggin' Larouche, why not), especially if someone in Ohio or Missouri or Florida is torn about voting their conscience instead of voting for Kerry.
posted by chicobangs at 1:38 PM on October 18, 2004


Is Larouche running this year? We never get the fun crazy candidates here in Massachusetts. How about the Hemp Lady ? I like her.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:49 PM on October 18, 2004


« Older Why this election is so disappointing......  |  They misnamed the war on terro... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments