You've probably heard it before- the fear that voting for a third party presidential candidate is throwing your vote away. Thanks to social media, many are finding more creative ways to make their vote count. It’s called vote swapping, and although it’s been around since 2000, the practice is gaining momentum this election cycle.
The idea is voters in decidedly red or blue states feel their vote doesn’t matter. So they trade their vote with a third party voter in a swing state. For example, a Trump voter in New York feels their vote won’t make a difference. So they trade with a Gary Johnson voter in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania voter casts a ballot for Trump, where that vote can make a difference, and the New York voter casts a ballot for Johnson and potentially helps Johnson get more campaign financing for the next election.
Tulane student Roxanne Heston wants to see Hillary Clinton elected president. But living in Louisiana, she thought voting for Clinton wouldn’t make a difference. So she traded her vote with an Ohio voter, where a vote for Clinton will have a bigger impact.
"So I guess I'm voting for Gary Johnson on behalf of someone in another state who would like to vote for Gary Johnson and he's voting for Clinton on my behalf,” Heston said.
Trading votes can be as easy as downloading an app on your phone and connecting with someone voting for a third party candidate in a swing state. What's more, it's completely legal.
The 9th circuit court basically said it's just communication between voters and it's protected by the first amendment,” political analyst Ed Chervenak said.
But how effective is it?
“It's hard to get an idea of how many people have actually swapped votes because it's done on the honor system,” Chervenak said. “When you communicate with someone to basically trade votes you're relying on their good faith to do so"
That hasn't deterred Heston.
"We're both united around something pretty common, we want more representation around different perspectives and we want Clinton to be the next president for the next four years so we both have mutual incentive to follow through,” Heston said.
And in what many are calling a bleak election cycle, Heston is finding a way to become enthusiastic about the democratic process.
“I really wanted to be excited about the election and kind of up until I found vote swapping I couldn’t be,” Heston said. “I thought if I vote in Louisiana it’s clearly going to go red, there’s no way I could make a difference so finding vote swapping for me and other people was the first shot that they finally had at being excited about presidential elections again.”
If you’re interested in vote swapping, here’s a site that connects you to other vote swappers.