The Stark Difference Between VotePact and Vote Swapping

Arun Gupta—one of the most sophisticated analysts and activists around today—tweeted at me on Friday about a New York Times oped: “Anti-Trump Republicans: Don’t Waste Your Vote. Trade It.” Wrote Arun: “Imitation of @votepact is the sincerest form of flattery. @samhusseini“.

It says a lot about how terribly understood VotePact is that someone as plugged in as Arun would confuse it vote swapping, which is what’s outlined in the Times piece.

As I’ve written at VotePact.org/about: ‘This is not “vote swapping”—in which voters in so-called “swing” states who want to vote for third parties “swap” votes with committed Democrats and Republicans in so-called “safe” states. This was outlined by VotePair.org and VoteTrader.org, both now defunct. Unlike “swapping,” VotePact is not an attempt to “minimize the damage” of a third party run—it is designed to actually shake up the political spectrum, create a realignment and open the door to actual victory for independents or emerging parties. Also, VotePact does not result in people voting for candidates they don’t want—it frees people to vote for candidates they do want, but are held back by fear because of the limitations of the voting system. While the Electoral College is central to “vote swapping,” it is not at all central to VotePact, though VotePact does work best if the two voters are in the same state.’

And all that still stands.

Some people actually saw the New York Times piece as outlining a novel approach, which is totally false, the writers—John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes, co-founders of Republicans for Clinton and former officials in the Office of the United States Trade Representative during the George W. Bush administration—acknowledge that this was attempted in the 2000 election.

But they claim that it didn’t take off because ‘Word didn’t spread fast enough.’ This is not a serious claim dig this. Vote swapping got quite a bit of attention at the time, I recall George Stephanopoulos chatting about it on ABC. The founder of one of these websites—there were several—was interviewed on NPR.

One effect of the attention that vote swapping got was to make VotePact barely understandable to people, since it was just another level of confusion.

There should be no confusion. Vote swapping (or vote trading) is like arbitrage, it’s an attempt to game the system at the margins so that independent candidates and third parties basically don’t affect the outcome of an election in any real way. VotePact is an attempt to actually give a way out of the duopoloy for the majority of the U.S. public that seems to want that, but is largely gripped by fear.

If taken seriously, VotePact opens the way for a re-alignment of the U.S. political system. It ends people undermining candidates they say they actually agree with on the issues. It re-structures the relationship between the major parties and the public, giving the public a course of action in an election that is very strategic, so the base has leverage with the major candidates, rather than being a defacto prisoner to them. It also can foster meaningful left-right dialogue and cooperation, leading to a healthier political culture.

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