Apps Let Voters in Swing States Swap Third-Party Votes With Voters in ‘Safe’ States. But Are They Legal?

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By Emily Zanotti | 12:25 pm, November 4, 2016

The two major campaigns have been lashing out at third parties lately, reminding independent voters, relentlessly, that casting a vote for a candidate not from either the Democratic or Republican Party could have dire consequences for the election.

Hillary Clinton was on a one-woman crusade against libertarian Gary Johnson for much of September, and Donald Trump has been warning Republicans to forget about voting for conservative Evan McMullin, or risk permanent party alienation.

And Americans are noticeably nervous that if the wrong candidate wins, they might be partially responsible for ushering him or her into office. So tech experts are stepping up to help in the form of “trading apps” that lets third-party voters in swing states trade with major-party voters in “safe” states.

One app called “#NeverTrump” or “Trump Traders” lets you vote your ideals but also help Hillary Clinton. Similar to a matchmaking app, the program connects third-party voters in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio, with Clinton voters in safe states like California. The two voters can then agree to “trade” their votes, with the swing-state voter casting a ballot for Clinton and the safe-state voter casting a ballot for the third-party candidate of choice.


Once you complete your profile, you’re granted access to a “trade room” where you can make personal deals with other voters, facilitated—but not endorse—by the app creators.

Right now, most of the people in the chat room are Clinton supporters desperately looking to offload their vote to a swing state.

The question remains, however, are such schemes even legal? Well, it turns out that’s largely open to interpretation.

Federal laws prohibit trading a vote for “any money, gift, service, or other valuable consideration.” But thanks to a 2007 Supreme Court case, brought by operators of a vote-swapping site opened during the 2000 elections, as long as the apps, sites or chat rooms are merely facilitating—and not arranging—the actual swaps, they’re most likely legal.

And that’s what Trump Traders says it’s doing: helping people match up. Whether the actual votes take place is up to the individual voters and an “honor system.” At that point, the two voters have made a contract between themselves, and the Federal government can’t interfere.

If you’re considering swapping your vote, though, bear in mind that it’s still frowned upon—and it may be only a matter of time before states find a way to end the fun.