Does Your Vote Really Count?

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With the 2016 Presidential Election heating up, the candidates are scrambling for every vote they can get.  Donald Trump is behind in the national polls by about seven percentage points, but Clinton still does not have the approval from more than half of the American people1.  According to FiveThirtyEight, Clinton will receive 150 more electoral votes than Trump, but Trump still has a 12% chance of winning the election2.  This being said, Hillary has not made a single mistake in the past couple of months, and with the final debate over, there is a very little chance she will trip up.  On the other hand, Trump must have a couple miracles occur to even have a chance at the presidency.

The path to 270 electoral votes is complicated.  Four presidents have gotten to 270 but did not win the popular vote.  The most famous of these contested elections is George W. Bush vs. Al Gore.  Gore received over a half a million more votes than Bush, but still lost the electoral vote 271 to 2663.  This result was from Bush winning major electoral states by slim margins, but losing the rest by large differences, causing great despair for the losing candidate.  With only two states (Maine and Nebraska) that are not winner take all, a result like this can happen.

So, why not make it simple and have whoever receives the most votes wins?  Wouldn’t this eliminate all of these problems?  This debate goes way back to the founding of our great country.  Small states like New Jersey and Rhode Island were afraid that they would be insignificant compared to a populous state like Virginia, thus having little to no representation.  On the other hand, the highly populated states argued that they should not be penalized for having a higher population and rather be rewarded.  The compromise, which still stands today, is that each state is given two representatives in addition to a certain number of delegates determined by the population of the state, (no less than one), resulting in each state having a minimum of 3 representatives.

Though it still seems unfair to normal people like you and me that 538 individuals get to decide the president for over 300 million of us, there are certain obligations that the delegates, for the most part, have to abide by, because some states do have laws binding them to the specific candidate the people elect.  The last time a delegate of a certain district did not vote in congruence with the people was in 1988.  Fortunately, his vote did not matter.  Also, when these delegates are chosen, they are expected to vote for the candidate the voters chose.

If there was a popular vote, everyone’s vote would be equal, but it is not the case.  In states with high populations, each vote has less significance than a vote in a low population state.

Living in a swing or low population state increases the importance of your vote.  A swing state is a state where the party allegiance is ambiguous and can change year by year. A blue (Democratic) or a red (Republican) state generally votes with the same party year in and year out.  In these states, your vote is much less significant, but it is still important to go out and vote for the candidate who you support,and not be discouraged because a candidate is almost guaranteed the state.  This thought is why there are sometimes big upsets– supporters of a specific candidate rally to vote in order to win if their candidate is losing, while the predicted winner’s supporters relax back at home, expecting an easy win.  This being said it is much more important to vote in a swing state than in other states.

This year Alaska is a swing state with Trump having just a 68% chance of winning4.  On top of being a swing state, the people’s vote has about three times more influence on the presidential election than a voter in New York or California making Alaskans the most significant voters in this presidential election.

On the other hand, living in New York is to your disadvantage if you want to make a difference in the election, being the second to worst place to vote ahead of only California.

In 2012 only 126,144,000 voted out of 218,959,000 eligible voters5.  Meaning only 57.5% of people who could vote, did, which is not a very enthusiastic turnout6.

Why should I vote if I despise both candidates and live in an insignificant voting state?  A lot of people may be asking this question. The answer is yes, you should vote.  First of all, by voting you are letting your voice be heard.  Even if you are not into politics, it is very important. Less than a hundred years ago, many people did not have this right, and many people take this right for granted nowadays. In protests for the right to vote, many people risked their lives and sometimes were killed to get you to be allowed to go to the ballot and cast your vote.  So even if you write someone in who is not running, it is extremely important to treat your right with respect because not so long ago some people were not allowed to vote.  Finally, on top of all of these reasons to vote, people around the world are still struggling for their freedom to speak their voice and vote.

In conclusion, your vote in New York is insignificant compared to lower populated swing states, but this fact should not discourage you from voting because it is an extremely special right that many people still do not have.

  1. http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/, accessed October 18, 2016

  2. http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/, accessed October 18, 2016

  3. http://americanhistory.about.com/od/uspresidents/f/pres_unpopular.htm

  4. http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/alaska/, accessed October 22, 2016

  5. http://www.statisticbrain.com/voting-statistics/

  6. http://www.statisticbrain.com/voting-statistics/

  7. http://www.learnnc.org/lp/media/lessons/davidwalbert7232004-02/electoralcollege.html#2

 

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