"Ralph Nader had been a hero of mine for almost four decades... But the more politically practical side of me was angry in 2000 about having gone down to yet another glorious liberal defeat because people of remarkably similar principles could or would not compromise with each other. I had fantasized with friends about a vote swap... So along comes votepair.org to turn my fantasy into a reality. To whoever is reading this, I say, 'Nader voters of America, join us. You have nothing to lose but George Bush.'"
First votepair.org registrant
More Stories from Participants
Votepair.org is legal
Jamin Raskin (a professor of constitutional law and a lead member of votepair.org's legal team) wrote recently that if vote-pairing were banned: "That would be like banning candidate promises, political endorsements, and bipartisan coalitions. The First Amendment protects the right of citizens to talk about their votes across state and party lines, to change their minds, to change other people's minds, to publicly endorse and vote for whomever they want (including the lesser of two evils or their second- or third-choice candidate), and to form strategic voting coalitions. Political compromise, slate-making, coalition-formation, legislative logrolling, and vote-trading are the very essence of democratic politics." For the rest of Raskin's comments, click HERE
The bottom line is that even if a state wanted to make vote-pairing illegal (and none ever has), such an attempt would be unconstitutional. Despite that fact, you'll occasionally hear arguments that it is against the law. None of these arguments can be backed up.
The reason this question exists is because some blatantly partisan-motivated Republican secretaries of state, led by California's Bill Jones, tried to shut down the movement in 2000 by claiming that vote-trading is a form of vote-buying and selling. This is absolutely untrue since nothing of material value ever changes hands, which is what vote-selling statutes prohibit. To make it simple, if you gave someone a pack of cigarettes for their vote, that would be illegal. But, if someone said to you, "vote for George W. Bush and I will pray for you," that would not be illegal. Although a prayer might have 'value,' it has no 'material' value. The same thing goes for an exchange of political opinion between two voters. Vote-pairing is definitely not prohibited.
Despite what supporters of George W. Bush claim, the United States Justice Department issued a statement regarding the practice of vote-pairing that leaves nothing to the imagination - "[T]here is no pecuniary exchange, and [vote-pairing] is an agreement amongst private parties." Additionally, the spokesperson stated there is no violation in terms of voter fraud. (Cerolyn Cresser, A Vote For a Vote, THE DAILY IOWAN, Nov. 2, 2000, available at 2000 WL 28358386). It could not be any clearer that Vote-Pairing is legal.
Republican secretaries of state who moved against 'vote swapping' in 2000 did so hoping to suppress the effect of the movement before anyone could effectively respond. The effort by Bill Jones of California has now been proven to be based on his own political bias, and his position has been reversed by the current California Secretary of State. His counterparts in other states like Maine, said that it was both legal and, "a provocative way to use a new medium," (See David Connerty-Marin, Nader-Gore Vote-swapping is Deemed Legal in Maine, PORTLAND PRESS HERALD, Nov. 1, 2000, at A1). Nebraska's Republican Secretary of State said, that there was no illegal activity involved in vote-pairing, as there is no exchange of money. (Andrew Cain, "Nader Traders" Shut Down Under Pressure, WASH. TIMES, Nov. 1, 2000, at A12. The Mayor of Salt Lake City has stated that that he supports VotePair.org and has already been paired with a votepair partner! See Rocky Anderson's story.
Only a few Republican partisans who were afraid of the potential impact of vote-pairing came out against the practice in 2000. Minnesota's Secretary of State tried to claim it was illegal in 2000, but her biases are well stated here. And her unethical attempt to benefit her party by lying about the law in order to try to scare potential participants away from a legitimate use of their constitutional rights is discussed at page 194 here.
All of the discussion around vote-pairing, and whether it fits into state or federal laws is only one level of the question. Truly, this is an exercise of the most sacred of all activity protected by the First Amendment. The absolute core of the First Amendment is its protection of free speech and free association for matters of political importance--which are the very rights that votepair.org promotes. We could go on and on about how the Constitution protects this activity, but if you truly need to be convinced, start reading at page 211 here.
So--if you're wondering whether vote-pairing is legal, who are you going to believe? We hope you'll side with Professor Jamin Raskin, one of the leading constitutional law professors in the nation (see Raskin's book), Laurence Tribe, well-known as one of the greatest First Amendment theorists in history, and our phalanx of attorneys and law professors who have conducted years of research on the issue.
There isn't a single shred of credible authority to back up claims that vote-pairing is illegal, but plenty to refute them.
Vote Pairing is legal.