Supporters of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader are looking for ways to ease worries that in this year’s too-snug-for-comfort presidential race, a vote for the consumer firebrand might add up to a victory for George “Dubyah.”

In a recent article in the Village Voice, Nader supporters suggested a unique vote-swapping plan that they liken to the practice of big industries trading pollution credits.

“It works like this,” an unidentified Green Party leader was quoted as saying in James Ridgeway’s article. “If you’re in Illinois where the contest between Bush and Gore is tight, it’s OK to vote for Gore if you can find someone in Texas–where Bush will will easily–to vote for Ralph.” The idea is to build as big a Nader vote in as many states as possible without inadvertantly helping the Bush campaign. Or, to put it another way: The vote-swapping plan prevents Nader supporters from having to choose between pragmatism and principles in this year’s presidential race.

In North Carolina, where Nader is not on the ballot for president, the vote-swapping idea probably won’t be very popular. And that’s just fine with Doug Stuber, head of the state’s Green Party.

“I think vote swapping could easily just be a way of finagling people into not voting for Nader,” he says. “The real key [to the Nader campaign] is to form a progressive, third party. And that may take more than one election cycle.”

Stuber says many Nader supporters in North Carolina are students and he’s encouraging them to cast ballots in their home states if the Green Party candidate is on the ballot.

The North Carolina Greens are busy raising funds for Nader’s national campaign, and are planning a rally in Raleigh on Oct. 21 to protest laws that make it hard for third parties to get on the ballot in the Tar Heel state.

Nader backers will also be joining supporters of other progresive causes in staging demonstrations tonight outside the presidential debate on the Wake Forest University campus in Winston-Salem. Nader and Reform Party candidate Patrick Buchanan have not been invited to participate in any of the three scheduled debates.

Will Ralph be making another gate-crashing attempt in Winston-Salem, as he did in Boston at the first debate?

Stuber thinks not. But Nader may appear at an alternative “Rock the Vote” event that will parallel the official debate. For more information, call the N.C. Green Party at (919) 245-0567.