Friday, September 24, 2004

The "Popular Vote" fallacy: How VotePair.org misunderstands history...

The rumbling in the East is the collective sound of our founding fathers turning over in their graves. Votepair.org is a website promoting a vote-swapping scheme to get Kerry elected this November. The scheme is couched in language that supports concepts such as progressive third-party candidates and the popular vote. From their website:
You can make your vote for president count by joining the national VotePair campaign and using your vote to elect Kerry-Edwards while supporting the role of progressive third-party candidates. As we learned in 2000, a few hundred votes in the right states can make all the difference in the world--and the whole world is watching now. In vote-pairing, swing-state progressives whose first instinct might have been to vote for Nader or Cobb are paired with Democrats (and others whose first choice for President is Kerry) in 'safe' states where either Bush or Kerry has a decisive lead. Paired voters can communicate with each other and decide to vote strategically: swing-state participants for Kerry and safe-state participants for Nader or Cobb. As a result, the paired voters' support for progressive third parties is recorded in the popular vote and their preference for Kerry over Bush finds voice in the Electoral College.
Is this practice constitutional? Wasn't the idea that having the United States of America necessitated having a system such as the Electoral College to insure that each individual State would cast their decision in electing the President? Also, check the FAQ section for some examples of doublespeak and clues to the motivation behind the Votepair organization:
What are the goals of votepair.org? 1. We believe that strong, progressive third parties are critical to our nation's future and that citizens have the right to vote strategically. Votepair.org seeks to give progressive voters more options by enabling us to defeat George Bush in 2004, support third parties, and build a progressive majority. 2. Through vote pairing, we seek to facilitate communication between voters. By engaging with each other to vote strategically, voters are asserting control over presidential elections--putting it back in the hands of citizens, where it belongs. 3. We seek to draw attention to the flaws in our current Electoral College system and support electoral reforms such as Instant Runoff Voting. Does votepair.org also facilitate alliances between Republican, Libertarian, and Constitution Party supporters? Votepair.org facilitates strategic voting for supporters of David Cobb, Ralph Nader, and John Kerry. But we support the right of individuals from any party to engage in strategic voting. Does the existence of votepair.org represent the future of the electoral process, or simply the exploitation of a loophole in the process? The Electoral College and winner-take-all voting are flaws exploited by the major parties. We see vote pairing as helping to restore real democracy within this flawed system. We hope that in the future, the electoral system will reflect the spirit of democracy to a greater degree by providing space for third parties and reflecting the popular vote. What's wrong with the Electoral College system? The first problem is that the loser in the popular vote can win in the Electoral College, as in 2000. Second, the winner-take-all method of distributing electoral votes in the Electoral College means that the votes of those who do not support the winning candidate are effectively discarded at the state level. Third, in the Electoral College system, individual citizens have no right to vote for electors. Fourth, small-state voters are over-represented. Fifth, the electoral college gives campaigns little incentive to pay attention to issues that are critical to safe state voters and residents of safe states have much less incentive to vote.
If the Electoral College is so flawed, then why not use the system to correct it? Unless, possibly, you have interests that are better served outside the system?

4 comments:

Ed Jordan said...

Bush supporters (unethical ones) could pretend to be Nader supporters, promise to vote swap, and then vote for Bush anyway. This influx of faux Nader supporters would "soak up" many of the available Kerry votes-to-be-traded from places such as California.

I wonder how much that would hurt, however. The number of Kerry supporters willing to trade for Nader votes might be large enough that they couldn't all be soaked up. Although, as you say, Dems in California have less reason to vote.

I think that very few people would use this service. I, for one, would want to cast my own vote.

Darren said...

Ridiculous ignorance of the Constitution there. Contrary to what your fifth grade social studies teacher told you, the United States is not a democracy, it is a republic.

Anonymous said...

"Ridiculous ignorance of the Constitution there. Contrary to what your fifth grade social studies teacher told you, the United States is not a democracy, it is a republic."

That's funny. I checked the definitions of both terms and at least one dictionary says that the two terms are used interchangably.

Anonymous said...

While one comment points out that a Bush supporter could pose as a Nader supporter to "dupe" a Kerry support into giving up his/her vote, IT DOESN'T MATTER to Kerry supporters in a Republican states. They have a 100% certainty that their votes will not count in electoral system, unless the use VotePair in which case that have SOME possibility that their votes will count somewhere. Something is better than nothing.