Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Could the Rise of 'Vote Swap' Apps Make the Electoral College Irrelevant?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Could the Rise of 'Vote Swap' Apps Make the Electoral College Irrelevant?

Article excerpt

Third-party supporters: you can get your vote reappraised. That's if you live in the right kind of state.

This year is seeing a resurgence of vote-swap websites and apps that pair voters for a major-party candidate - in most cases, Democrats in blue states - with a third-party supporter living in a swing state. For example, a Floridian who likes Jill Stein or Gary Johnson could agree to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Election Day if a blue state voter would vote for that third-party candidate. In other cases, another voter can get involved, so the swing-state voter can get two ballots of his choice in exchange for his single one. For some, ballot swapping represents a loophole in the electoral college system that enhances the value of the popular vote.

Amit Kumar, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, says more than 10,000 people have searched for a vote swap through his #NeverTrump app since its launch, according to USA Today. John Stubbs, the co- founder of Republicans for Clinton 2016, which launched the website Trump Traders, told the paper that more than 1,000 had signed up.

Similar websites debuted in 2000, when Ralph Nader supporters sought to barter with Democrats in order to keep George W. Bush out of the White House while still voting for their guy. And enmity toward Republican presidential Donald Trump (and to a lesser extent, Mrs. Clinton) has certainly been the prime reason for a revival.

But it also seems to shine a light on the unpopularity of the electoral college, as well as the ethical dilemma of whether it's justified to game the system this way.

In surveys dating back to 1966, Gallup noted in 2000, runaway majorities of Americans have said they would do away with the electoral college if given the chance. Subsequent surveys have shown much the same; in 2013, the date of the last poll, 63 percent of Americans said they would vote for a reform that staked the election on the popular vote.

Still, some find the tactic a little unsettling, even if it isn't illegal or clearly unethical.

"I'm a little conflicted," says Peter Levine, a political philosopher and associate dean at Tufts University's College of Civic Life. …

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