PROVO — Frustrated with being a Democrat in a sea of Republicans, one Utah County woman has found the answer: vote swapping.

Feeling as if her vote simply doesn't matter, she exchanged her vote with a man in Democrat-dominated California during the 2000 presidential election.

And this year she may do it again if the opportunity arises.

The action is called vote swapping, vote exchange or vote pairing.

It is typically done via a Web site such as votepair.org. One person in another state agrees to vote for another person's political choice — and vice versa.

Since exchanging votes doesn't include buying or selling the vote, but rather a nonbinding agreement, it is legal, according to Utah election officials and political science professors.

Tom Roberts, an assistant attorney general for Utah, said it would be difficult to find a specific statute in Utah state law that addresses vote swapping. There are sections that address giving anything of value for a vote — but nothing regarding switching votes, he said.

Democrat Faye Parker, 58, of Provo, says she wanted to vote for Al Gore in 2000 but was "sick of her vote not counting" because of the electoral college.

The electoral college is based not on the number of votes cast by voters but rather the number of electoral votes from each state. This is the number of the state's two U.S. senators and its U.S. representatives, which depends on the state's population.

Parker swapped with a man in California who was a fan of third party candidate Ralph Nader.

Parker says she feels isolated as a Democrat in one of the most red counties in America.

"It makes me feel disenfranchised," she said, "just as women did prior to women's suffrage, or when black people weren't allowed to vote — and all the feelings that go with that."

It's never a surprise when Utah goes Republican "and it hasn't been a surprise for 25 years," said Quin Monson, assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University. Monson is also the assistant director for the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.

"Does it (vote swapping) make a difference in the outcome of any state?" Monson said. "Probably not."

He added he feels vote swapping isn't "worth the energy" but is more of a psychological thing for voters.

Parker said, "It may not make a difference politically — but it made me feel better."

She added she voted for Nader via the swap in order to help Nader get his share of the national popular vote. If he got 5 percent or more, then he could get federally distributed public funding as well as being in the presidential debates in the next election.

Monson said he doesn't believe vote swapping is a problem, nor is it a widespread phenomenon.

"It's probably a few thousand people nationally out of millions of voters," he said. "If more people were doing it, perhaps we should look into it."

Vote swapping may be gaining popularity, however.

In August, the U.S. 9th Circuit Appeals Court announced its decision on Porter v. Bowen. This case stemmed from vote swapping during the 2000 election. California's Secretary of State shut down voteswap2000

.com and votexchange2000.com. The Web sites took the issue to court, which eventually ruled the sites are protected by the First Amendment.

Matthew Burbank, associate professor of political science at the University of Utah, points to a major flaw in vote swapping: "It's trusting someone to do something that you absolutely cannot verify. There is no way to know that person didn't vote for whoever they wanted."

Parker admits vote pairing is based purely on honesty.

"It's a good-faith thing," she said. "I trusted him to do what he said, and he trusted me."

Burbank points out, even if vote pairing was illegal, there is no way to prosecute it because how a person votes is confidential. "There is likely no chance of being prosecuted for it," he said.

When asked which he feels is worse, vote swapping or simply not voting at all, Monson said, "Neither. Just go vote."

He said there are other things on the ballot, such as local races and issues. "Don't just stay home," he said.

Further, instead of swapping votes, Democrats in Utah can try and strengthen their party, Monson said. "Talk to your friends and neighbors," he said. "Get them to vote for your candidate."


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