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The Power of Vote Swapping

I think it is of the utmost importance that you vote for Gary Johnson in November. Now, before you have an aneurysm, hear me out.

Most of you are probably aware that today Donald Trump is about a coin flip away from being the President. If you are as opposed to this outcome as I am, we need to band together to stop it. So why do we vote for Gary Johnson? The answer is vote trading.

We can change the course of this election. Here’s how it works:

1) If you live in one of these states:

New York
Washington, D.C.
West Virginia

2) Find all your friends who are undecided or are voting independent / green, who live in these states:

New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Carolina
Rhode Island

3) Call them up. Catch up. Talk about life. Tell them about how concerned you are about a Trump presidency. Express understanding of their desire to give legitimacy to, provide support for, and protest on behalf of Gary Johnson and/or Jill Stein. Propose to them that you will vote for their preferred candidate (which provides presumably the majority of the benefit they’re after in terms of giving their protest national legitimacy in popular vote totals) in exchange for the promise that they vote for Hillary Clinton in November.

Why is this valuable? Why is this important? With the help of some math, Nate Silver, and the abomination that is the electoral college, we can find out:

If you live in a state that is highly blue (DC, HI, MD, VT, CA, MA, NY) or highly red (NE, WY, OK, ID, AL, WV), it stands to reason that your individual vote (for either major candidate) has a very low likelihood of determining the winner of your state’s electoral college votes. Conversely, if you live in a highly contested state (CO, NH, NV, FL, PA, NC, MI), your chances of flipping the state are far higher. This is represented wonderfully by FiveThirtyEight’s “Voter Power Index.”

The “Voter Power Index” represents the relative likelihood that an individual voter in a given state will decide the outcome of the electoral college vote. Below is FiveThirtyEight’s assessment of the states whose individual voters have the most influence. This is largely a function of the competitiveness of the state and the expected number of voters. For example, NH’s 4.3 is twice VA’s 2.1, indicating that a New Hampshire voter is twice as likely to change the outcome of the election as a VA voter.

Voter Power Index - Most Valued States

Next, we look at the states in which an individual vote is far less likely to change the outcome of the election. This is where it gets interesting.

Voter Power Index - Least Valued States

Essentially what these charts tell is us that a New Hampshirite’s vote is over 43 times more influential than a Californian’s vote. I live in California, so this makes me sad.

But if I can trade my vote (and I did with 4 of my friends – who put their country above themselves) for votes in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, I can increase the power of my vote by 103000%. Now, normally I would recommend trading your vote 1 to 1 with a friend to be fair. But if you have wonderful, generous friends like mine, you can ask them if it is OK if you make the same agreement with others so that you trade your vote multiple times (the stakes are high, it’s worth asking).

Now, the first question I get is, “How do you know people will actually do it?” The answer is I don’t. I have no way of enforcing this swap, but I intend to keep my side of the bargain. I’ve done this with my friends and I recommend you start there too. If we can’t trust our friends, what kind of society are we? Look on the bright side, even if your counterparts do not honor their part of the deal, they were going to vote that way anyway and your vote doesn’t even matter that much relative to theirs (sorry, but it’s true).

We don’t need to make a big splash and we don’t need to completely change how we spend our time — we merely need to make a trade and pass it on. Share this idea. Talk to friends. Talk to friends about this idea. We *can* change this election.