As America gears up for the Election Day, the entire world waits with bated breath. The results – whether the scale will tip towards Blue or Red – will be the tipping point not only for the United States, but for the entire world. Last week, the race between Trump and Clinton became alarmingly narrow. Washington Post-ABC News Tracking Poll’s survey reported that Trump was riding behind Clinton by merely two points. It’s latest report says that Clinton has picked up the lead and is now ahead of Trump by five points.
The back and forth is bound to continue in this race till the end, but it is winning in swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania that will announce the true victor in the elections. The votes in these states therefore are extremely crucial. In Ohio, for example, there is a good chance that Trump might win. However, for a number of Ohio’s third-party voters (who are neither for Trump or Clinton, but support Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson for example), the thought of the Republican candidate winning in their state is disconcerting. At the same time, they can’t vote in favour of Clinton because they want to vote for Johnson.
Miles away, in predominantly blue states like California and New Jersey, democratic voters face a similar conundrum. Plenty of them are aware that while they favour Clinton, their votes will hardly make much of a difference because Clinton is likely to win in their states without breaking a sweat. Their vote wouldn’t be of much value. Their votes however, will hold immense value in swing states.
So, how does one change the current status quo?
In October, Amit Kumar who is an entrepreneur and a Clinton supporter, developed #NeverTrump – an app that allows third-party voters in battleground states to trade their votes with Clinton supporters in safe states.
This is how it works: X is a Johnson supporter in Ohio, while Y ardently backs Clinton in California. The two log in on #NeverTrump and provide details mentioning who they are, where they are from and who they are likely to vote for. The app then connects X to Y where the two virtually meet for the first time, interact and subsequently exchange their candidates. What this means is that X will vote for Clinton in the swing state where it’s crucial for Clinton to gain electoral clout, while Y will vote for Johnson in California, ensuring that Johnson still gains a vote (even though it’s in a different state).
There are of course several Republicans who’ve refused to join Trump’s clan. As a result, many have decided to not cast their vote and stay at home. The app however motivates such Republicans to not throw away their votes and exchange them instead.
This scenario is reminiscent of the U.S. Presidential election in 2000, where the concept of vote trading first emerged. Democratic candidate Al Gore’s supporters realized that third-party candidate Ralph Nader might divert crucial support from Gore’s campaign in key swing states, which would lead to colossal damage for Gore’s campaign and ensure George W. Bush’s rise to power. Keeping this in mind, Gore’s supporters appealed to Nader’s voters asking them to cast their vote in favour of Gore in battleground states like Florida. In compensation, they promised to vote for Nader in solid blue states. While a handful of vote-trading websites like NaderTrader.org, NaderGore.org, Voteswap2000.com, did appear over the internet, the movement didn’t manage to gain much momentum since the internet was still in its embryonic stage. Today, the success of swapping holds more promise.
Vote swapping is done in good faith – there is no binding contract between two voters. It’s all based on trust. Of course, the option of a “ballot selfie” (taking selfies in voting booths as proof) does exist – but it’s only legal in 21 states, which include Washington DC, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska and Idaho. In the important swing states like Florida, Colorado and Nevada however, taking a ballot selfie isn’t legal.
One may ask however whether the trading of votes is legal in the first place? Since the transaction doesn’t involve monetary exchange, vote swapping websites in the United States are considered legal. In fact, they stand to represent free speech, where the voters simply express their political leaning on a public forum.
As D-Day draws closer, the Democratic and Republican candidates are battling it out neck-to-neck. For the Americans however, the task of voting is similar to choosing between the devil and the deep sea. Who will win the elections? One can’t say for sure, but the only way Clinton can win the keys to the Oval Office is by piggyback riding on anti-Trump protest votes, particularly in swing states. Let’s all take a deep breath and wait and watch.