This year’s presidential election pits two major party nominees with historically low unfavorable ratings against one another. This seems to be creating more than a little interest in third and minor party candidates. Now an anti-Donald Trump group is trying to create what they think is a win-win system for Ohio voters frustrated with their choices.
Craig Clawson of Gahanna, a suburb of Columbus, is facing a dilemma this election season.
“I was a lifelong Democrat until this until this year’s primaries.”
If you were to ask Clawson a year ago who he would vote for in November’s presidential election, he would’ve been likely to tell you the Democratic nominee.
“I’ve donated money to their cause. I’ve volunteered for the Obama campaign both the first and second one. I’ve sung their praises on social media.”
But all that changed this year.
Clawson is a Bernie Sanders supporter and he says the leaked DNC emails show that the party unfairly favored Hillary Clinton over Sanders in the primary.
“I don’t feel like she is the right choice for this election.”
But as much as Clawson dislikes Clinton, he says the thought of Donald Trump as president is much worse. He wants to vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein but believes his vote in the all-important swing state of Ohio should do more in defeating Trump.
So, he’s trading his vote.
“This is a way for me to sort of justify my vote for Clinton. I would’ve voted for Stein but now I know somebody else is going to vote for Stein and I can vote for Clinton in a place where a Clinton vote means the most.”
Clawson is swapping votes through a project called Trump Traders.
Here’s how it works. A 3rd Party Voter in a swing state, who fears a Trump victory, can trade their vote with a Clinton voter in a state that already seems to be polling in her favor or one she’s going to lose anyway. Clawson’s trading with a voter from South Carolina.
This is the pitch in an ad from TrumpTraders.org.
Ad: “You’ve decided to vote for a 3rd Party but we can all agree that the worst outcome would be.”
Trump: “I am your voice.”
The super PAC Republicans for Clinton 2016 is the group behind Trump Traders. So it’s pretty clear that they’re hoping the end result of this project will be a Clinton victory. But, as Trump Traders’ Chris Talbot explains, this can encourage more votes for both Stein and Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson by doing it a different way.
“Somewhere around half a million to 600,000 voters in Ohio are telling pollsters that they are going to support a third party candidate those votes for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein in Ohio they basically amount to half a vote for Donald Trump.”
That statement right there is exactly what fires up 3rd Party campaign staffers such as Lindsay Workman. Workman is the national grassroots director for the Johnson campaign, and she’s been battling that narrative that a vote for Johnson or Stein helps Trump.
“I think that that’s deplorable -- to use a Hillary Clinton word – way of operating politics and I just hope that people realize that and stand up and vote for who they believe in because on November 9, regardless of the outcome of the election you’ll be able to say ‘well I stood up for what I believed in and I voted for the person that I believe should run this country.”
As for vote swapping itself, Workman says the campaign is not a fan of the idea but they’re also not seeing groups like Trump Traders as some sort of competition. In fact, they’re promotional efforts, according to Workman, seems to be generating more name recognition for people like Johnson.
Neither the Clinton campaign nor the Trump campaign wanted to comment on vote trading. However, Trump’s Ohio spokesperson did suggest we contact top election officials with the Secretary of State’s office.
So we did. Press Secretary Josh Eck says vote trading is completely legal under one condition – there can be no money involved.
“As long as you’re not being compensated for your vote then you can come to the conclusion for who you’re going to vote for however you’d like.”
A similar effort was deemed legal in 2000 with a group called Nader Traders, where Ralph Nader voters swapped with Al Gore supporters. Talbot with Trump Traders assures that they’re following every bit of the law. In fact, there are no measures in place to even guarantee a person will vote the way they say they will, instead it’s all on the honor code system.
There are now more than 10,000 Trump Traders so far and the group plans to keep making a major push through mass text messaging and social media, especially targeting voters under 30.