"Being a liberal in Utah is so discouraging. As a college student who is active in politics, it has been hard for me to encourage my peers to vote because when they say, "Our vote doesn't matter; Utah is a Republican state," I can't deny the validity of the statement. I heard about Vote Pair a few weeks ago when a student wrote a letter to the editor of our school newspaper, and it has brought new hope to the dozens of the liberal students who work at the paper, my family members, and my anti-Bush friends. Now when fellow students try to give me the excuse that they aren't voting because they don't think their votes matter, I can steer them in Vote Pair's direction. Thanks for giving my generation a new way and reason to participate in the democratic process. "
Salt Lake City, UT
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Election 2004: Votepair.org builds coalitions for change
In this election year, the conventional wisdom has been that the nation is divided as never before. Less common are discussions about the importance of building coalitions among groups that are normally divided, but who share critical interests. One such effort is votepair.org-an effort of volunteers crossing state and party boundaries to advance strategic voting.
Through votepair.org, Democrats in states considered safe for Bush or John Kerry (like Texas or New York) are paired with supporters of Green Party candidate David Cobb, Independent/Reform candidate Ralph Nader, and Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik in swing states (like Florida, Ohio, or Pennsylvania). The result? A resounding endorsement of third-party candidates, as reflected in the popular vote, and more votes for Kerry, as reflected in the election-deciding Electoral College vote. As of October XX, XXXX [INSERT NUMBER FROM THE XML HOURLY STATS] people had signed up on votepair.org, including XX from XX [INSERT NUMBER OF REGISTRANTS AND NAME OF YOUR STATE].
With relations among progressive parties at a low point (Democratic Party officials trying to keep Nader off state ballots, Nader supporters holding rallies outside Democratic headquarters, David Cobb campaigning in swing states), votepair.org offers an effective alternative: the opportunity to unite and build bridges. Votepair.org advances the long-term interests of progressives of all stripes, who collectively share the belief that a second Bush presidency will mean the continued fraying of civil liberties, environmental protections, fiscal responsibility, and international law.
The organizers of votepair.org believe that strong third parties are critical to the nation's future and that citizens have the right to use their votes strategically-particularly in an Electoral College system that effectively ignores the views of many voters in presumed safe states (thereby reducing the incentive to vote), discards the votes of those who don't support the winning candidate, and denies the right of individual citizens to vote for electors. Most important, the Electoral College system can override the popular vote, as happened in the 2000 presidential election. Strategic voting helps put control over election outcomes back where it belongs-in the hands of individual citizens-and reflects a too-often-forgotten tenet of democracy: every vote counts.
Contrary to the assertions of opponents of vote pairing, the process is neither unethical nor illegal. There is nothing wrong with two people from different states drawing similar conclusions about the advancement of common interests. At its core, vote pairing is a form of political association and expression protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. And the essence of vote pairing is free choice-which is why votepair.org encourages pairs to communicate with each other before fulfilling their pledges on Election Day.
For some people, voting for their second (or third) choice may seem a betrayal of their political principles. But by uniting to vote strategically, progressives can help elect a President who represents at least some (or most) of their principles and views, rather than none at all. It's never too late to stand united, and in so doing to move toward a more open and diverse political system. Votepair.org helps pave the way.