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RS 171 - Scott Aaronson on "The ethics and strategy of vote trading"

Release date: October 30th, 2016

Scott Aaronson

It can be pretty frustrating to live in a "safe" state during national elections, where the chance your vote will affect the overall results is practically zero. This episode, with professor Scott Aaronson, explores an unorthodox solution to the problem: "swapping" your vote with someone in a swing state who was going to vote for a third party candidate. Scott and Julia explore the game theory of vote swapping, and whether there are any ethical problems with it.

Vote Swapping Sites: (recommended),

Scott's Pick: "Why Nerds are Unpopular" by Paul Graham

Podcast edited by Brent Silk


Full Transcripts 

Reader Comments (7)

This complex discussion would be completely obviated if we were to abandon the Electoral College. With the College gone, every vote has exactly the same weight as any other, and there are no State races that are of consequence. I don't see the down-side to this suggestion.
October 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjon bondy
You'd have to be mathematically illiterate to think that, even in a "swing state", your act of voting is valuable in anything other than symbolic terms.
November 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJ. Goard
Living in Ireland where we have a proportional representative voting mechanism this problem of strategic voting is not really an issue but I real like the voting swapping idea for polities like the US. In addition to making one's vote count more I like the idea that it promotes contact, trust and conversation between people who have different voting intentions. Long-term I would worry that vote-swapping might degenerate into vote selling but that is a 'slippery slope' argument that does not affect vote-swapping itself.
November 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrendan K O'Rourke
Thanks Bro.
November 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBidobi
Aaronson lost a good deal of credibility when he claimed that prediction markets gave Trump a 10% chance of winning.
The biggest and most important political prediction market by far is which saw about $250 million traded dwarfing all others.
On the day this podcast was released Trump was rated about a 22% chance of winning.

May I also mention that a podcast called "Rationally Speaking" should be able to rise above open political posturing ?
November 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJobe Watson
Well it's all come and gone, and again the results have surprised us.
I was thinking about the point Brendan ( made about the slippery slop of vote selling, through out the podcast. Coming from Africa, this would be an inevitable outcome, so it ran counter intuitive to me.
Regards, Alan
November 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAlanGC
Watching this in 2017, I have to wonder how many people who live in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, supposedly "safe" states for the Democrat Candidate for President, voted for the Green Party candidate in exchange for someone in Ohio or Florida voting for Hillary Clinton. A vote swap could lose an election this way.

Wow, vote swapping really could have changed the 2000 Presidential Election result. Democrats could have swapped just 500 votes or so, especially with Ralph Nader's popularity and the 100,000 voters voting for him in Florida.

Perhaps we need to switch to an election system that has a Popular Vote with Automatic Runoff.
December 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJameson

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