A New Strategy: Vote Swapping

Fear that casting a ballot for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader will only benefit Texas Gov. George W. Bush has prompted a new election strategy: exchanging votes.

The tactic behind three recently created Web sites—www.voteexchange.org, www.nadertrader.org and www.voteswap2000.com—is to match Nader voters in swing states with supporters of Vice President Al Gore in nonswing states where the outcome is all but certain, and have them trade votes.

Steve Yoder, a registered Demo-crat who voted for Nader in 1996, started voteexchange.org to offer Green Party advocates the option to support their preferred candidate without siphoning votes from Gore in favor of Bush. Swapping votes will also help Nader receive the 5 percent of the vote his party needs to receive $7 million in federal matching funds.

“Vote exchange allows the Green Party’s visibility to grow without risking the regressive policies of Bush today,” the site says. Tips are provided on how to prevent Bush supporters from sabotaging the program.

The Web sites may be well within their legal rights. Federal law prohibits offering anything of value in return for a vote, but nothing is be-ing given here, said Jan Baran, a Washington, D.C., attorney who specializes in campaign law.

Supporting Nader without bolstering Bush is also the strategy behind a $300,000 print campaign sponsored by Greg MacArthur, the grandson of the late billionaire John MacArthur.

The ads, running in newspapers in nonswing states such as New York, Massachusetts and Texas, urge people there to vote for Nader. “Why voting for a candidate who can’t win is the smartest thing you’ll ever do,” one ad says. “And don’t worry, a vote for Nader is not a vote for Bush.”

Nader’s campaign does not support any voting strategies. “Our position is a vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil,” said Stacy Malkan, a Nader representative. “We are asking people to vote their conscience.”