Time to vote-swap

I blogged about anti-Trump vote-swapping before (and did an interview at Huffington Post with Linchuan Zhang), but now, for my most in-depth look at the topic yet, check out my podcast interview with the incomparable Julia Galef, of “Rationally Speaking.”  Or if you’re bothered by my constant uhs and y’knows, I strongly recommend reading the transcript instead—I always sound smarter in print.

But don’t just read, act!  With only 9 days until the election, and with Hillary ahead but the race still surprisingly volatile, if you live in a swing state and support Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or Evan McMullin (but you nevertheless correctly regard Trump as the far greater evil than Hillary), or if you live in a relatively safe state and support Hillary (like I do), now is the time to find your vote-swap partner.  Remember that you and your partner can always back out later, by mutual consent, if the race changes (e.g., my vote-swap partner in Ohio has “released” me to vote for Hillary rather than Gary Johnson if, the night before Election Day, Texas looks like it might actually turn blue).

Just one thing: I recently got a crucial piece of intelligence about vote-swapping, which is to use the site TrumpTraders.org.  Previously, I’d been pointing people to another site called MakeMineCount.org, but my informants report that they never actually get assigned a match on that site, whereas they do right away on TrumpTraders.

Update (Nov. 6): Linchuan Zhang tells me that TrumpTraders.org currently has a deficit of several thousand Clinton supporters in safe states.  So if you’re such a person and you haven’t vote-swapped yet, please go there ASAP!

I’ve already voted for Gary Johnson in Texas, having “teleported” my Clinton vote to Ohio.  While Clinton’s position is stronger, it seems clear that the election will indeed be close, and Texas will not be in serious contention.

67 Responses to “Time to vote-swap”

  1. Vitruvius Says:

    On the Matter of “Least Bad” Democracy

  2. null Says:

    Isn’t it the case that McMullin voters have different incentives than either Johnson or Stein voters, at least in Utah, given the closeness in the polls? Perhaps Clinton voters in Utah should swap with McMullin voters in not-Utah.

  3. clayton Says:

    I was just assigned a vote swap partner via MakeMineCount.org (I signed up following your initial blog post), but I have been unable to contact my partner and verify that he is still committed to the swap. I can understand that some users are interested in anonymization, but I think this situation calls for something… else. Unless I can receive some assurance that my vote is being instantiated elsewhere, I intend to vote for the candidate I like!

    Incidentally, I think TrumpTraders.org left out New York. Anyone else notice this?

  4. Boaz Barak Says:

    Would be good to know if TrumpTraders.org is legit. You get immediately an email that you were matched, but there are no actual details, so it’s hard to know if that’s really the case, and the website doesn’t seem to contain information of who is behind it.

  5. Scott Says:

    clayton #3 and Boaz #4: D’oh! OK then, can anyone suggest a vote-swapping site that doesn’t have these problems (and in particular, that gives you the actual contact details of your swap partner)?

  6. Boaz Barak Says:

    BTW if people find the mechanism of vote trading too cumbersome, and have not maxed out on their donation to Clinton’s campaign, I am guessing that donating $200 should have the effect of winning at least one vote.

    This is really back of the envelope calculations: if the total spend by the campaign and PAC’s etc.. is about $1B, and this expenditure shifts the roughly 100M electorate is shifted as a result is 5% (i.e., the difference between not campaigning at all and a $1B campaign is 5% shift) then we would get that the expense is about $200 per vote.

  7. John Foss Says:

    I already swapped with a Johnson supporter in Colorado through the#nevertrump app. We were able to chat and upload photos directly through the app.

  8. citizen Says:

    I would argue that a vote for Clinton in a non-swing state is still (a tiny bit) helpful.

    If Clinton wins, Trump and his supporters will claim the election and the system is rigged and will never accept her as the legitimate president, and we’ll be in for four years of constant investigations and stonewalling. This is bound to happen either way, but the bigger her margin of victory is (including the popular vote), the less effective it will be.

  9. John Foss Says:

    citizen #8: Vote swapping does not reduce Clinton’s popular vote margin. In fact, if any of the voters involved would otherwise have stayed home on election day, vote swapping increases her margin.

  10. Patrick Says:

    It looks like once you register on TrumpTraders.org, it gives allows you to chat with your vote swap partner and in the chat it shows their facebook profile picture.

  11. quantum supremacist Says:

    It’s not just the system – our Hilbert space is rigged!

  12. fraac Says:

    Clinton supporters in Utah (not elsewhere) should tactically vote McMullin, not the other way around. For one they have the motivation, and secondly the state looks close between Trump and McMullin. Clinton fans entirely have the power to deny Trump those 6 EC votes.

  13. anon Says:

    Vote swapping is highly unethical. It subverts the intent of the U.S. Constitution. Residency in a state is presumed to be of some import when it comes to voting, even for POTUS. It is the state’s electors that cast votes for POTUS. I’m sure you know this. So it’s okay to subvert the intent of the foundational documents of the nation? Is that your view? The end justifies the means, does it? Hmmmm

  14. Scott Says:

    Update: Boaz tells me that he can now contact his vote-swap partner on TrumpTraders.org. So for now, my advice to use that site stands.

  15. Scott Says:

    anon #13: Did you even read the interview with Julia? Hmmmm? We addressed precisely that. I explain there why the way we currently use the Electoral College not only makes no sense, but also has almost nothing to do with the foundational documents of the nation.

  16. Jarred Barber Says:

    frac #12: A vote for McMullin won’t help Clinton – since you aren’t increasing her electoral vote count, it doesn’t affect whether or not she gets 270. The only impact a McMullin win could have is causing a deadlock (nobody gets 270), in which case the vote goes to the house, which is Republican controlled (although the actual voting procedure is a little more complicated than simple majority).

  17. Avi Says:

    New York is not on the list of states!

  18. anon Says:

    Re: Comment #15. The Electoral College was initially defined in Article II Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution as ratified by Congress in 1787. Since then modifications stemming from the 12th Amendment and subsequent statues have changed the processing — but the intent remains the same. Your assertion that “it makes no sense” is not founded in fact but your own opinion, which is clearly biased. You may have ‘addressed’ the ethics in a pervious post to your satisfaction. But that doesn’t mean you are correct. You are, from another equally valid perspective simply an unethical apologist for a failed world view that is evidently going to lose the Electoral College vote in 2016 in any event. Your ethics on the matter are quite questionable — your assertions to the contrary notwithstanding.

  19. Joshua Zelinsky Says:

    anon #18, Do you want maybe to explain how Scott’s response in the Podcast doesn’t sufficiently address the ethical concerns? Is there a specific claim he makes there that you disagree with?

  20. fraac Says:

    Jarred: if you’re asking McMullin voters in Utah to trade with Clinton voters in states where neither Clinton nor McMullin can win, you need to offer more than 1:1. A protest vote total number is one thing but a state win is surely worth a lot in itself. You should offer five or ten votes to one.

  21. Andrew Says:

    I was matched in MakeMineCount today but was given no way of contacting my match. I suppose this is a prisoner’s dilemma then. Any thoughts about how to proceed?

    @Avi#17, from TrumpTraders FAQ: “Please note that we have already made the site’s vote-exchange features unavailable in those states (Minnesota and New York) where regulators have previously noted a concern, however unfounded, with vote-exchange sites.” I ran into the same problem, also as a voter in NY.

  22. Michael P Says:

    And the market says: 2 votes in California is worth 1 Ohio vote. Given such evidence than the current electoral system is very very far away from the originally envisioned “1 man 1 vote” wouldn’t it be a good time to make an effort to push for a change to proportional representation? Of course we all knew for decades that not all votes are created equal, but here’s some numerical evidence of gross discrimination against residence certain states… Do you think it’s doable to reform electoral vote count from “the winner takes all” to proportional representation?

  23. Mike Says:

    Hillary voters in Utah should vote for McMullin regardless. She was never going to win Utah anyway, and a McMullin victory takes those electoral votes off the table for Trump, making his path to 270 even more difficult

  24. Linch Says:

    TrumpTraders.org is created by Republicans for Clinton, the same org that started the NeverTrump app.

  25. Original Position Says:

    I signed up with makeminecount.org a few weeks ago. At the time they said they would match me with someone in November. I got an email today saying I was matched with someone in Florida. I got a name, but no means of contacting the person, nor any indication that I will get such in the future.

  26. Original Position Says:

    anon #18 Article II Section I says “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress…”

    It explicitly gives the states discretion in deciding how to pick the Electors. So I don’t see how vote-swapping can be seen as going against the intent of the US Constitution.

  27. Daniel Seita Says:

    Yeah, I signed up for MakeMineCount and tried prodding the creator on the github issues page (several times), but it looks like it wasn’t until today or yesterday that we got an email update (and it was only an update, not an actual match). Anyway, I voted absentee so it’s too late now.

  28. Alphaceph Says:

    Or you could get on the Trump Train. It has no brakes!


  29. anon Says:

    Scott, I have read the transcript of your interview on Huffpost (hardly a non-biased site), and again, there is nothing there beyond opinion. Nothing. Scott, your base assumption is clear: the electoral college is outdated and direct majority should be the model for POTUS selection That is your assumption. And you then make the case for vote swapping based on that specific assumption. Nothing more. You also admit to your intent of undermining the extant processes (“… I confess that I think the electoral college should be undermined.”). If you believe direct election of POTUS by majority is preferable, then make that argument. Defend that argument. You have not done so convincingly at all. Were it so, you’d be backing a movement to change the constitution. But to swap votes to subvert the law — a dubious endeavor from the outset, given the electoral college, is unethical, subversive, somewhat clownish, and probably illegal in most states. I think you’re smarter than that. Please don’t let your unbridled political instincts get in the way of an otherwise superb intellect. Do not presume that because you are a lauded pioneer of quantum computing that your world-class mastery of one discipline equates with mastery outside your wheelhouse. That, sir, would be a serious logical fallacy. I respect your blog when it does not stray too far from your genius. But please keep clear of partisan political silliness. It is simply theater. You’re better than that.

  30. Scott Says:

    anon #29: Whose opinion would I give when people ask me for it, if not mine? 🙂

  31. GASARCH Says:

    1) Would libertarians really take matching gov funds if they get
    over 5%. As Libertarians perhaps they would not. This might make them less inclined to vote-swap since they don’t have a real goal. Also, only the 3rd or 4th or whatever party person in a swing state can be

    2) IF Utah was 40%-Trump, 40%-McMullen, 20%-Hillary then it might make sense for the Hillary Supporters to vote McMullen. The current scenario is not quite that so its harder to tell, but its an intriguing notion.

    3) The electoral college make or may not be outdated (thats a tautology!) but in its current form its nowhere near what the founders intended. Its already been subverted, its already lost its original intent.

  32. Joe Says:

    The website looks kind of sketchy. It would be much better if they gave it a bit of a human touch, and gave numbers for how many votes have been traded. It seems like a scam.

  33. Boaz Barak Says:

    anon #29.

    There are two questions regarding vote trading:

    1) Is it legal?
    2) Is it ethical?

    The courts have weighed on this issue and decided that it is legal, so the argument that it “subverts the law” does not hold water.
    Scott gave convincing arguments why he thinks it is ethical.
    I don’t see any argument for it being unethical on your end.

    To me the principle of vote trading seems not identical but quite similar to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which has been joined by 10 states and D.C.

    But, for full disclosure, since I mentioned this in a comment above, perhaps I should say that I ultimately decided not to personally go through with trading but my wife and I contributed a little more to Hillary instead. I hope I don’t curse myself next Tuesday.

  34. Boaz Barak Says:

    p.s. btw if you think vote trading is illegal or unethical, let me ask you the following question:

    Suppose that (very hypothetically speaking) I have a friend who is a trump supporter and we make an agreement that we both don’t vote so we cancel each other and skip the lines. Is that illegal? unethical?

  35. luca turin Says:

    Scott #30: Your reply made me chuckle. When I moved from France to the UK many years ago, I noticed that I could say almost anything without upsetting anyone as long as I prefaced it with “In my opinion”. In France that was considered unnecessary: everything you say is by definition your opinion unless otherwise specified. In the UK the default value may be more like “consensus opinion”.

  36. jonas Says:

    Re #22: sigh. I wonder if Scott could make some sort of FAQ page about vote swapping, since people keep asking the same things in every thread. The top ones are why it would be bad if Trump became the president; what happens to vote swapping if the predictions for your state change; and what Gary Jones supporters can gain from more votes even if Gary won’t become the president.

  37. Vote-trading and personal honor | Compass Rose Says:

    […] points out that this distinction creates the opportunity for gains from trade, and has been promoting the idea of vote-swapping in order to reconcile these interests. The idea is that one or more […]

  38. Jon K. Says:

    #34 I like that thought, Boaz. Isn’t nature always looking for ways to minimize the work it has to do? Or maybe you’d like to draw comparisons to matter and antimatter cancelling each other out? (Obviously, the Trump vote would be the “antimatter” in this analogy.) Or what about letting people vote over and over for their favorite candidate and then canceling votes out based on cardinality? I would actually sympathize with the feeling that the “whole thing is rigged” if elections were founded on theories of the infinite.

  39. Michael P Says:

    The 1st thing TrumpTraders.org asked was my Facebook public profile and my email address. I’d rather not broadcast that in the context of political choice. Is it possible to participate in TrumpTraders w/out making one’s profile exposed to political trolling?

  40. lewikee Says:

    #39: Similar boat: I don’t even have a Facebook profile! Is there a way to participate in this without Facebook – only using an email address?

  41. Daniel Reeves Says:

    I didn’t get a confirmed match from either makeminecount or trumptraders so I just posted on Facebook. Looks like that is working!

  42. Holden Lee Says:

    #32: I definitely want to see more transparency in vote-trading sites. It would be nice for the system to register when 2 people have agreed to swap, and to display the number of votes swapped in all states, especially since this is the first time in the US this is being done on a large scale – and we can really use the data on how much this changes the election. We also just need to know this isn’t a scam from a third-party or Trump voter to fool people into not voting for Clinton!

    When I registered as a Clinton supporter I was immediately matched up. I find this fishy given that I would expect there to be a surplus of Clinton supporters and a shortage of third-party supporters in swing states. What were other people’s experiences with the wait time, esp. from the other side?

    One downside to vote trading in terms of optimizing Clinton’s chances of winning is that it might encourage people who are wavering between a third-party candidate and Clinton to not have to make the decision (by trading off their third-party vote). This means that with respect to this objective, convincing people to vote for Clinton > trading votes, but trading votes is still better than not doing anything.

  43. Holden Lee Says:

    Also, the TrumpTraders site says “2x 3rd-party votes in a safe state for 1x clinton vote in a swing state”. Is it really being matched 2-1? Do 3rd party supporters get matched with 2 people?

  44. Nilima Nigam Says:

    Like many others, I’m watching this election from outside the country with a sickened fascination. I cannot vote in the US, but this doesn’t stop me (and others!) from wondering about our collective geopolitical futures, which are and will be shaped by what happens in your Senate and your Presidential elections.
    I find your electoral system Byzantine at best. Mr. Trump strikes me as an intemperate and unsuitable man, unworthy of pretty much any office of substance.

    My question for you is: how do you determine if yours is a ‘safe’ state for your preferred candidate? Is this based on polls, and if so, which ones? And how accurate are these? If you are trading votes, perhaps this stuff matters?

    I don’t know how to parse your newspapers very well, some report polls showing Trump moving ahead in polls, others not.

  45. Chris Says:

    Scott: do you perceive any difference between people, politically speaking, compared to while at MIT? My perception is that at MIT there would be a lot of anti-Trump sentiment, and perhaps that is true in Liberal Austin. But have you noticed any difference?

  46. Ski Monster Says:

    Wait, can’t Trump supporters use this to their advantage? Consider:

    1. X is in a swing state; pretends to support GJ
    2. X gets matched with Y, a Clinton supporter in a safe state; they swap votes
    3. Y votes GJ, (very) slightly raising Trump’s chance of winning State Y
    4. X votes Trump, slightly raising Trump’s chance of wining State X

  47. Ted Says:

    I briefly looked into MakeMineCount.org, TrumpTraders.org, and the #NeverTrump app made by Trimian. They all have serious flaws, but I had the best luck with #NeverTrump – they matched me quickly, and if you decline and come back later they re-match you with a new person, so you have some degree of control over the state and preferred candidate of the person you trade with. Once matched, you can chat in person and at least get a verbal promise that they’ll follow through. You can also contact people yourself based on their state and preferred candidate, although no one answered my chat requests. I think you need a Facebook page though.

  48. Scott Says:

    Chris #45: That’s an interesting question. I can’t say that I get a great sampling of political views either at MIT or at UT, but my impression is that Trump support is extremely rare at both places—with even the conservatives, such as there are, often supporting Johnson or McMullin or a write-in candidate or nobody. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve seen dozens of Clinton-Kaine signs all over Austin, but not a single Trump sign (though I did see one Clinton sign that someone had graffiti-ed “TRUMP” over).

    I haven’t yet noticed a difference between MIT and UT in terms of student or faculty politics, but if there were a difference, there’s an excellent chance I wouldn’t have noticed it, and also an excellent chance that it would be down to UT being a giant state school with a huge diversity of students and departments, and MIT being a smaller tech school.

  49. Joshua Zelinsky Says:

    Ski Monster #46,

    They can do that but most of the vote trading on the HRC end is either in states like New York or California where the only way that Trump will have a chance of winning is if there’s a landslide anyways or in states like Texas where there’s only a chance of an HRC win if there’s a landslide the other way.

    Also, it requires direct dishonesty and in practice people are by and large honest. Some of the trade systems also allow you to talk to the person you are matched up with, with minimizes the chance that the person is really going to deceive you.

    Overall, it is a risk, but a very small one.

  50. Travis Says:

    I think even if there is only a small (like 25%) probability of a trade successfully causing an extra clinton vote in a swing state, it’s probably worth it, since a vote in a safe state is, like, basically 0.

    Although I’d hope/think the probability is much larger than that.

  51. Compass Rose Says:

    […] Trump. If you're in a swing state, that means voting Clinton. If you're in a safe state, that means vote-swapping (background here). I've looking for a match via TrumpTraders, so I'll hopefully be giving my […]

  52. Raoul Ohio Says:

    According to Wired, the best projection are by Sam Wang:


  53. Raoul Ohio Says:

    And the news is good.

  54. John Sidles Says:

    Tuesday’s xkcd. Thank you, Randall.

  55. Scott Says:

    Raoul #52: What is there to say except that I hope Wang is right, and let’s make him right?

  56. jonathan Says:

    In discussing his methodology in the comments on his blog, Sam Wang admitted an “error” that lowers his prediction to a more reasonable 95%. (Basically his estimate is very sensitive to the variance of the aggregate component of polls, and he picked that parameter somewhat arbitrarily, and a more reasonable parameter based on the data suggests lower odds.)

    Also, I believe his prediction does not consider the possibility that polls are systematically wrong (e.g. due to turnout, bad sampling, people lying, etc). I think this is built into 538.

    However, I also don’t like a few things about 538, such as their neglect of mean-reversion.

    Personally, I would go with the betting markets, which generally have Hillary in the 80s. That seems reasonable to me.

  57. Scott Says:

    (Update to comment #48: today I passed by one person at UT wearing a “Trump Pence” t-shirt. Almost had to compliment him for bravery…)

  58. Daniel Seita Says:

    Out of curiosity, how do people stay focused on work while lots of political news goes on? I would have thought one way is to ignore all political news until the evening, but Scott seems to check on his blog every few hours.

  59. Scott Says:

    Daniel #58: If you figure out the answer to that, let me know!

  60. John Sidles Says:

    My own jittery election-nerves are being soothed this evening by reading:

    Advanced LIGO Weekly Progress Reports  Ultra-nerdy technical details of preparations for the Second Observing Run (O2), to begin this coming December, hopefully seeing plenty more thrilling black hole mergers! Aye, lassies and laddies of Shtetl Optimized, this is what real-world advanced quantum technologies look like! 🙂

    Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” (1998)  To appear in theatres later this week as the Hollywood movie “Arrival”. Hmmmm … that’s odd … the movie trailer shows a plenitude of explosions, missiles, and helicopters … that I sure don’t remember in Chiang’s story. Still, I’ll be seeing this movie with my daughter, and we expect to have a good time. 🙂

  61. wolfgang Says:

    This vote swap thing worked great …

  62. Dani Says:

    We have only the Democrat party to blame for this. It takes some arrogance to nominate someone like Hillary and expect people will just swallow it. Yes, she’s a woman and she’s got lot of experience. So what, does that help to cleanse all her dreadful history? Let’s hope next time they can at least come up with a “decent” candidate. It’s all it would take to demolish a character like Trump.

  63. Me not you Says:

    Well, Scott, is it time to panic yet?

  64. B_E Says:

    Dani #52: “We have only the Democrat party to blame for this.”
    Yup, the Republicans had nothing at all to do with Trump’s election.

  65. Elliott Says:

    Well, both Texas and Ohio went Trump, and by comparable margins.
    I expected this, but I expected the race to be a bit closer.

  66. ari Says:

    Scott, as a fellow jew, I agree wholeheartedly with your apprehension. I am going to be flying out with my mother to Israel on friday and I don’t know when I’m coming back. This crazy country elected Nazi Trump and I’m not going to wait around for them to round me up. It’s like its 1939 again!

  67. Dani Says:

    B_E #64 At this point we all know that the Republican party is mostly irredeemable. I can expect anything from them, but I had certain hope the Democrat party could do better than that. She was by any means a terrible candiddate (Trump even being a candidate is beyond any rational explanation) and they should have seen it coming. Hopefully Trump will be overwhelmed by the huge responsibility that being President entails and will mostly rely on advisers. Honestly I think he’d rather have lost and enjoy the huge publicity campaign that the elections were.