In 2000, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader catapulted George W. Bush into the Oval Office by siphoning off 97,488 Florida votes that otherwise would have gone to Al Gore. As a result, Bush — heavily supported by evangelical Christians – won Florida and the Presidency by the slimmest of margins – 537 votes.

Ralph Nader

Back in 1992, H. Ross Perot gave the White House to Bill Clinton, drawing away enough discontented conservatives and Christians that George H.W. Bush lost and Clinton became President with only 43 percent of the popular vote. Almost a century before, Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party candidacy is credited with electing Woodrow Wilson.

Perot, if you remember, was a multi-billionaire who spent millions on his own candidacy. That didn’t work out very well for him nor in 2012 did it work for pro-wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon who spent $97 million of her personal fortune trying to become Connecticut’s junior U.S. Senator. 

H. Ross Perot

Maybe campaign-spending laws should change, says economist Glen Weyl, a professor at the University of Chicago. He says there are plenty of people who so vehemently want to see their candidate elected that they’d cast more than one ballot if they could. So why not let them? He has proposed a plan that would allow people to put their money where their mouths are by paying to vote as many times as they’d like. His system would require a voter to pay an increasing amount for each vote cast; the cost of each vote would be the square of the vote number. So your first vote would cost you just $1, the second vote would cost $4, the third $9, the fourth $16.

“So doubling or even tripling your weight at the polls would be relatively inexpensive,” writes Ross Kenneth Urken for Daily Finance. ”Go much beyond that and it starts to add up faster than you’d expect: For five votes, you’d pay a total of $55. For 10, a total of $385. Want to swing a small local election all by yourself? The hundredth vote, in this scenario, would cost you $10,000, but the 100 votes in total would run you a staggering $338,350. (Still, that’s easily within reach for men with names like Koch, Trump, or Buffet.)”

Obama and Romney spent around $1 billion each on advertising — much of it in the “battleground states,” appealing to swing voters — who waited until the last minute to decide how to vote. Even so, the election seemed marred by ambivalence — with many Christian voters joking that they voted holding their noses, picking the least objectionable candidate. Did the free flow of campaign money fail to remedy hard-core conservatives’ as well as diehard liberals’ ambivalence about their candidates?

In the end, did a wealth of third-party choices cause them to vote the equivalent of “None of the Above” by supporting neither Obama nor Romney — but instead some obscure third-party candidate? In Florida, an absence of third-party candidates could have made a dramatic difference for Romney. There Obama beat him by only 46,061. If all everyone who supported a third-party candidate had instead voted for Romney, the Republican candidate would have won the Sunshine State by 24,892 votes.