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Government & Politics

An Online Service Invites Voters in Swing States to Trade Their Votes

Trump Traders logo

This year’s presidential election features two major party nominees with historically low ratings, which has led to a lot of interest in third-party candidates -- and a lot of reservations about throwing away a vote. An anti-Trump group has come up with another option.

Craig Clawson of Gahanna, a suburb of Columbus, is facing a dilemma this election season.

“I was a lifelong Democrat until this until this year’s primaries.”

A year ago, Clawson says, he would have told you he'd likely vote in November’s presidential election for the Democratic nominee.

“I’ve donated money to their cause. I’ve volunteered for the Obama campaign both the first and second one. I’ve sung their praises on social media.”

But that changed this year.

Clawson is a Bernie Sanders supporter and he says the leaked DNC emails show that the party unfairly favored Hillary Clinton over Sanders in the primary.

“I don’t feel like she is the right choice for this election.”

Anything but Trump
But as much as Clawson dislikes Clinton, he says the thought of Donald Trump as president is much worse. He wants to vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein but believes his vote in the all-important swing state of Ohio should do more in defeating Trump.

So, he’s trading his vote.

“This is a way for me to sort of justify my vote for Clinton.”

Clawson is swapping votes through a project called Trump Traders.

Here’s how it works. A third-party voter in a swing state, who fears a Trump victory, can "trade" their vote with a Clinton voter in a state that already seems to be polling in her favor or one she’s going to lose anyway. Clawson’s trading with a voter from South Carolina.

This is the pitch in an ad from TrumpTraders.org: “You’ve decided to vote for a third party, but we can all agree what the worst outcome would be.”

Votes add up
The super PAC Republicans for Clinton 2016 is the group behind Trump Traders. So it’s pretty clear that they’re hoping the result will be a Clinton victory. But, as Trump Traders’ Chris Talbot explains, this can encourage more votes for both Stein and Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson by doing it a different way.

“Somewhere around half a million to 600,000 voters in Ohio are telling pollsters that they are going to support a third-party candidate; those votes for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein in Ohio, they basically amount to half a vote for Donald Trump.”

That statement fires up third-party  campaign staffers such as Lindsay Workman. Workman is the national grassroots director for the Johnson campaign, and for months she’s been battling the narrative that a vote for Johnson or Stein helps Trump.

“I think that’s  adeplorable -- to use a Hillary Clinton word – way of operating politics, and I just hope that people realize that and stand up and vote for who they believe in because on Nov. 9, regardless of the outcome of the election, you’ll be able to say, 'Well I stood up for what I believed in and I voted for the person that I believe should run this country.'”

As for vote swapping itself, Workman says the campaign is not a fan of the idea but also doesn't regard groups like Trump Traders as  competitors.

Neither the Clinton campaign nor the Trump campaign wanted to comment on vote trading.

The Ohio Secretary of State’s office says vote trading is legal as long as no one’s getting paid for their vote.

A similar effort was deemed legal in 2000 with a group called Nader Traders, where Ralph Nader voters swapped with Al Gore supporters. Talbot, with Trump Traders, says they're careful to follow the law. In fact, there are no measures in place to even guarantee a person will vote the way they say they will; instead it all relies on the honor system.