Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

I'm Registered to (trade my) Vote

I'm glad to share that I've registered to vote in New York. I'm glad not just because I'm a West-Wing-watching sap who believes that voting is a civic responsibility as well as a personal privilege, but also because we live in terrifying times and face an election of terrifying stakes.

"But Ross," you might object, "isn't New York, like, 99% likely to go for Clinton anyway?"

To this I reply:

  1. It's still a closer race here than in Maryland, which FiveThirtyEight claims is 99.8% likely to go Clinton.
  2. I'm a West-Wing-watching sap who believes that voting is a civic responsibility as well as a personal privilege.
  3. I'm going to be trading my vote with a third-party voter in a swing state.

"I'm sorry, what?"


Scott Aaronson laid out the case for vote-swapping exceedingly well in a recent blog post, so I won't re-hash the matter here. Suffice it to say (for those who can't be bothered to click through that link) that the Ninth Circuit's 2007 ruling in Porter v. Bowen makes it clear that agreeing to swap votes with a citizen of another state is protected by the First Amendment. And the site MakeMineCount.com exists to help Clinton supporters in states that are safe (for either party) swap votes with third-party supporters in swing states. Their motto is "Everybody wins. Except Trump."

edit: As of 11/5/2016, I haven't been matched at MakeMineCount. A friend mentioned to me that they believed MakeMineCount has a surplus of Hillary supporters, whereas TrumpTraders has a surplus of third-party supporters. I've now registered with TrumpTraders; I'll update this space when I have more information.

(Losing third-party candidates mainly benefit from vote share -- if they pass 5%, their party qualifies for federal funding in the 2020 election. Clinton, obviously, benefits far more from a vote in Nevada than she does in New York or Texas.)

So, just as Professor Aaronson has signed up on MakeMineCount to trade his Texas would-be-Hillary vote with a would-be-{Johnson, Stein} vote in whatever state is swingiest come October, I've also signed up to trade my would-be-Hillary vote from New York with whatever it takes to convince a Nevada (or whatever) voter to vote Hillary wherever they live.


You might have some questions. For example:

How can you be sure that your counterparty will go through with it?

I can't be sure. For one, my swap partner might just go ahead and vote for whoever they were going to vote for anyway, and I've thrown away my vote for nothing. For another, they might already have decided to do the responsible thing and vote for Hillary, but sign up to 'make theirs count' pretending to be a would-be-Johnson, in order to trick me into trading my vote away for one that was already a Hillary vote.

But I'm willing to accept the counterparty risk here. Even if there's only a 30% chance that my swap match changes a vote that would have been placed for Johnson to a vote for Hillary, I'm happy to give up my vote to take that risk. Ten thousand third-party votes in New York for three thousand Clinton votes in Colorado? I'll take that, if it has to come to that.

Could you really bring yourself to vote for Jill Stein?

If it came to that, I'd do it gladly. It's no secret that I despise much of what Stein stands for. Of course, I would vote for her in a head-to-head race against Trump, but I'd probably have to head straight from the voting booth to a shower, it would make me feel so icky. (In my view, Johnson is better, but if you think I have much sympathy for the libertarian philosophy, you're not paying much attention.) And what's more, unlike many of my friends on the left this election, I actually think that Secretary Clinton is awesome, rather than just stomachable.

But of course, I assume that my vote-swap partner will feel the same way about Hillary. Not so utterly convinced of her evilness that they will be unwilling to arrange to vote for her if that's what it takes to keep a nativist, egomaniacal madman from the presidency, but certainly not excited to do so, and probably even a bit repulsed. So, well, it's even. I'm a bit repulsed by both of the third-party candidates. But I will mark off one of their names on my ballot this November if that is the trade that it takes to elect a sane, competent president.

And anyway, it wouldn't really be a fair trade if we weren't both giving something up.

Doesn't the cynicism of vote-trading bother you?

Oh yes. I think there's a very serious argument to be made that votes are not some secular thing to be traded away. And I wouldn't support vote-swapping in the general case. But this one is special, and if I'm going to ask my Hillary-skeptical friends to realize that and do the right thing, I feel like I should step up and treat it as if it's special.

But yeah, it bothers the heck out of me. I could go on about it, but this isn't really the time.

Wait, what if I just pretended to—

Let me stop you right there. This is important, but what's most important is that people trust that the system works. If you were planning on voting Clinton, then I hope you join my in pledging to swap your vote. But if you weren't going to, then don't lie and say you were, to try to con someone else into a one-sided swap. Don't promise to swap and then not swap. Don't sign up extra accounts. Don't even think about it. This is going to be hard enough without rumors of misconduct, so don't give anyone any reason at all to doubt your intentions.

Okay, but I was just going to ask...where can I sign up?

TrumpTraders if you want to trade away a safe-state Hillary vote, and MakeMineCount, if you want to trade away a swing-state third-party vote. You're in good company, and thank you for going the extra mile.

And if you want to go the extra extra mile, talk to your friends about why you're swapping your vote. Maybe they'll be interested, too.