High stakes swaps
Voters who are attracted to presidential candidates like Ralph Nader and David Cobb but have trouble digesting their food when they think of four more years of George W. Bush are being offered an alternative.

Vote Pair is putting Kerry voters from “safe” Kerry states together with non-major-party voters in swing states and encouraging them to vote “strategically.” This means that the Kerry voter agrees to vote for Nader or Cobb or whoever in the safe state if the swing state voter will vote for Kerry where it’s needed.

For instance, a Kerry vote in Massachusetts might be traded for a Nader vote in Nevada. Both candidates still get votes, but now they’re distributed to different states, giving Kerry a vote where he needs it—Nevada—without diminishing Nader’s overall total.

This was tried in 2000 when Al Gore was losing votes to Nader, with Web sites like NaderTrader and WinWin. But California Secretary of State Bill Jones called it an election law violation and shut down some sites promoting it. Litigation is still pending.

Jones is now gone, and his successor Kevin Shelley says he won’t move against vote-swapping sites unless the California Legislature clarifies state law to make clear it wants such sites targeted.

“No such clarification has been forthcoming, nor is any expected,” says attorney Peter Eliasberg of the ACLU of Southern California, which is defending against Jones’ old lawsuit.

Vote Pair organizer Carnet Williams of Hawaii says, “We have about 1,000 registered participants and so far one registered user from Nevada.”

Some Green Party members, such as Sarah Newman of Greens for Kerry, have embraced the tactic.

"Vote pairing is a way for us to unite, support our preferred candidates, and ensure that our voices are heard."