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My Vote Does Not Matter Because I Do Not Live In A Swing State

Published 11/5/08 (Modified 3/9/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

Well I voted. No one can blame me for not making sure my voice was heard. But yet I remain somewhat jaded and cynical at the fact that when all is said and done, my vote ultimately won't do much to affect the outcome of election results.

Every 4 years it's the same routine. I head to my designated voting station and pull the lever, poke the appropriate dot, or press the desired digital touch screen button to make my mark as a citizen of this great country. Unfortunately, any excitement or exuberance I may have in exercising my constitutional responsibility to participate in the political process is greatly tempered by the fact that I know my vote in all actuality counts for very little. It's not because my vote is only one out millions that will ultimately be cast that makes the relative unimportance of my single vote seem so sobering. It's the fact that I know with near definitive certainty that no matter which way I cast my vote, whether I vote for John McCain of the Republican Party, or whether I vote for Barack Obama of the Democratic Party, my home state of Maryland, a solid blue state as blue states go, will ultimately pass on all of its electoral college votes for the Democratic candidate no matter what. Such is the dilemma and troubling aspect of living in a state with such thoroughly entrenched political and social views, and in a country where Presidential elections are decided based on an electoral college system rather than through a national popular vote.

The Current Electoral College Voting System Unfairly Empowers Small, Rural States With Substantially Less People, With Disproportionate Power Over Larger States With Significantly Larger Populations

This ongoing sham in the electoral process is due to the fact that our founding fathers ratified a constitution that set forth a Presidential election process based on an electoral college system. Currently, instead of allowing citizens like myself the power and right to directly cast our votes for President, we instead merely submit our votes for state electors. Under the current troubled electoral college voting system, each state has a designated and apportioned number of electors based on the number of Senators and Representatives each has in the U.S. Congress. As such, the numbers of electors are generally divvied up based on population size, with more populated states like New York, Texas, and California receiving more electoral votes, and smaller states, like North Dakota and Nebraska���� receiving fewer. While there are a few slight variations, the vast majority of states adopt a winner takes all popular voting approach where state voters choose between presidential candidates and the victorious candidate in that state wins all of the state's electors and thus, electoral votes.

Perhaps, the old electoral college system was needed back in the late 1700's when our country was passionately divided and individual states were understandably concerned that their individual states' rights would be usurped and engulfed by a strong, overbearing federal government. However, times have changed and our former collection of rag tag individual states have since coalesced into a unified whole - a true United States. It is time we do away with the old process and abolish the electoral college in favor of a direct voting system based on true, popular vote.

Throughout our nation's history, our populations have divided themselves among regions that many of us like to call blue states and red states. Blue states are states that tend to exhibit more liberal political practices and tend to have higher minority populations with large urban centers, located mostly on the western Pacific coast and north eastern Atlantic region. Red states tend to be clustered in the mid western and southern states, usually in areas that adopt more conservative political practices and views. However, in between the blue and red state gradients are the so-called wishy-washy purple swing states - states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida that have no solid political leanings. These swing states waffle back and forth from election to election due to the moderate and balanced views of its electorate population. However, because under the current electoral college voting system, there is no advantage gained by winning the majority of the national vote as the winner-takes-all system focuses on winning individual state majorities, the system tends to unfairly offer smaller states and residents of swing states disproportionate voting power.

Now why should my vote in a historically solid blue state like Maryland be essentially penalized and emerge any less important than that of a citizen living in Pennsylvania or Florida? Because of the current electoral college voting system, Presidential candidates have no incentive to spend time or resources in states that they believe they are likely to win or lose by a sizable margin, thus they frequently ignore a huge majority of states with sizable populations and votes (which is just baffling in a country ruled by the concepts of popular rule and democracy). Instead, all of the attention goes to the purple swing states. This to me seems completely counter to the democratic concept of majority vote and rule. Whatever happened to the idea that each person's vote is just as significant and important as that of any other citizen's? Why should citizens living in rural areas where populations are nil or merely in the thousands compared to the mega urban centers of larger states with populations in the millions be given such disproportionately overwhelming power over the lives of everyone else?

The Electoral College Voting System Should Be Abolished Via A Much Needed Constitutional Amendment

I view the electoral college system as a form of political disenfranchisement and believe it is time we abolish it altogether. Having scenarios like in 2000 where President George W. Bush won the election by winning the electoral college but failing to actually win the national popular vote was just ridiculous, and completely flies in the face of democracy. What is wrong with an urban focused electoral system when that is where the population centers are? Isn't that the ultimate democratic way of one man one vote? Concerns about maintaining the separation of powers or maintaining the preservation of state focused rights are unfounded as the reality is that our country has substantially changed over the years and we are much more united and interdependent as a country than during any other time during our history. If we truly want to substantially increase the numbers of Americans who vote and to encourage more to take part in the most important political process in the world, it's time we amend the Constitution to strike out the electoral college voting system and put in its place, a more equitable and fair direct national voting process. One man/women, one vote - that is the democratic way.

However, despite any lingering frustration I continue to have with the current voting system, I still think it's paramount that every U.S. citizen continue to exercise his or her civic duty to vote in all relevant local, state, and federal elections. Despite its immense flaws, it's still the most profound tool we have today to effectuate change and make our country truly our own. But because of its current shortcomings, it's also why I would still gladly give up my right to vote for a million dollars.

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12 Responses to “My Vote Does Not Matter Because I Do Not Live In A Swing State” 

  1. susan says:

    There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that needs to be changed in order to have a national popular vote for President. The winner-take-all rule (awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes inside the state) is not in the U.S. Constitution. It is strictly a matter of state law. The winner-take-all rule was not the choice of the Founding Fathers, as indicated by the fact that the winner-take-all rule was used by only 3 states in the nation's first presidential election in 1789. The fact that Maine and Nebraska currently award electoral votes by congressional district is another reminder that the Constitution left the matter of awarding electoral votes to the states. All the U.S. Constitution says is "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the states over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive." A federal constitutional amendment is not needed to change state laws.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  2. susan says:

    The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people were merely spectators to the presidential election. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

    In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The bill is currently endorsed by 1,181 state legislators — 439 sponsors (in 47 states) and an additional 742 legislators who have cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

  3. Ron says:

    We're not a democracy. Never have been (Article 4 Section 4). A democracy is chaos, two wolves and one sheep deciding what's for dinner. We have a representative republic patterned after a Presbyterian form of church government that started back in the 1600's.

    We used to not even elect the President or VP, the Congress did. And the VP was the guy who came in 2nd!

    We used to not even elect our Senators, they were chosen by state legislatures (changed by the 17th amendment).

    But while there is precedent for changing our election procedures, I don't see it happening!

  4. debmc says:

    Very interesting entry, and comments.

    While we're at it, in addition to giving strong consideration to abolishing the electoral college (which I don't think will happen anytime soon for many reasons, not the least of which includes how complex and even more expensive campaigning would be for the candidates), after what we saw this year, we ought also to consider opening the popular vote to the V.P. as well as the Presidency. Why should the person standing next in line to be the leader of the free world be the choice of the candidate? I would think that in a rather enlightened and intelligent society, we should take the choice of second in line much more seriously. Thoughts?

  5. susan says:

    National Popular Vote has nothing to do with whether the country has a "republican" form of government or is a "democracy."

    A "republican" form of government means that the voters do not make laws themselves but, instead, delegate the job to periodically elected officials (Congressmen, Senators, and the President). The United States has a "republican" form of government regardless of whether popular votes for presidential electors are tallied at the state-level (as is currently the case in 48 states) or at district-level (as is currently the case in Maine and Nebraska) or at 50-state-level (as under the National Popular Vote bill).

    If a "republican" form of government means that the presidential electors exercise independent judgment (like the College of Cardinals that elects the Pope), we have had a "democratic" method of electing presidential electors since 1796 (the first contested presidential election). Ever since 1796, presidential candidates have been nominated by a central authority (originally congressional caucuses, and now party conventions) and electors are reliable rubberstamps for the voters of the district or state that elected them.

  6. threadbndr(Karla) says:

    As a person in one of the 'rural states with a small population', I'm of two minds about abolishing the current system. We in the "flyover" middle of the country are already ignored by both coasts for the most part. I am not sure I want to see us even more disenfranchised. But I do agree that the electoral college system is outdated and probably needs to be abolished.

    The idea of an elected VP fascinates me. I'd never considered it before. The problem would arise that the President and Vice President need to work closely together and it's possible that bitter rivals might be elected together. But then, as Ron pointed out (or as in memory with Kennedy and LBJ), that has been the case in the past and has not been impossible to work around.

  7. Eric says:

    Here's a great site that examines the pros and cons of the Electoral College System... Although, as a Californian, I am trending towards it's abolition, there are actually reasonable explanations for it's initial adoption and it's continued use.: (link)

    The reality is, when we go into that voting booth, we're not just voting for one thing, we have a duty to participate in all of the options we have in front of us: Congress, State offices, Local offices, Governorships, propositions... look at your own state's voting totals and look at how many more votes are cast for president compared to oter state wide choices. We don't put a real value on the vote and the fact that more people voted for president 48 years ago than did today even though our country has grown in size dramatically.

    A much more important thing would be to modernize our elections by moving them to a weekend or making them mulitple days long increasing access to the polls. In Palo Alto, CA there were 2 polling places within 3 blocks of one another. So, there were no lines. When I hear about 4 and 5 hour waits to vote in some areas, I'm stupified.

    There's more we can do to fix our elections than just throwing out the electoral college...

    Something to think about.

  8. Jeffrey Stingerstein says:

    I heard similar arguments against the electoral college system after the 2000 election by a number of Democrats and my position on it has not changed. As one person already commented, how the electoral votes are distributed can be changed without changing the constitution, but I am against removing the system entirely. My reason is simple. The people of NYC do not know the needs of the people of Iowa, Idaho, Missouri, Montana and elsewhere. Of course NYC have a far greater population, which is shown by the fact that NYS has so many more electoral votes than, say, Montana.

    In addition, a Constitutional Amendment is never going to happen because you need a good number of the "small" states to ratify it, but it is the small states that would lose out.

  9. Raymond says:

    Well Jeffrey,

    I'm from Maryland, a rather small state in comparison to the larger electoral rich neighbors in the area. However, even I support an electoral college change despite residing in a tiny state. To be fair, Maryland's views at large tend to be shared by those in other solid blue states like New York and New Jersey.

    I support such an amendment or abolition of the existing electoral college system because I actually want my vote to stand for something. Wouldn't the folks in the Midwest states as you mentioned want their voices heard as well on an equal footing with every other voter in the United States? Or do they somehow want their voices heard on a greater level and via a greater unequal proportion than the more democratic 1 man 1 vote system? Because when you create a system where elections are more dependent on swing state votes than on the national popular vote, you are essentially offering what is tantamount to 2-3 votes per person in those swing states than you are to everyone else in other solid blue or red states...

  10. Jeffrey Stingerstein says:

    "Wouldn't the folks in the Midwest states as you mentioned want their voices heard as well on an equal footing with every other voter in the United States? Or do they somehow want their voices heard on a greater level and via a greater unequal proportion than the more democratic 1 man 1 vote system?"

    If they put such an amendment forth, I would be happy to see the results. I do 100% believe that such an amendment would be shot down by every single small state. Plus it needs to pass the Senate and the House first, which would not happen. I disagree with you, but I do fully understand your points and think that they are valid. I just think that if an election really was decided by popular vote you would discover that the candidates would focus almost exclusively on big states and big cities, because that is where the vast majority of people live. However, small states have needs that only people from small states understand. Asking them to give up their "disproportionate" influence over the presidency is the same as asking them to give up their disproportionate influence in the Senate. It will never happen. That is why I favor States splitting their electoral votes over giving up the electoral system. I think it is the best compromise and I think that it was wise for the Founding Father to create the electoral system to begin with.

    You and I will have to agree to disagree, but I too would fully support any effort to have it brought to a ratification of the States and I think the small States would shoot it down with tremendous opposition.

  11. Ellen says:

    Imagine the nightmare of a CLOSE election by popular vote! Multiply Florida's 2000 hanging-chad problem by 50, and likewise, multiply the subsequent screaming and bitterness.

    Comparing the good points of plan B with the bad points of plan A is all very well, but the downside of direct popular vote could - every once in a while - be utter chaos.

  12. Tim says:

    Of course voting makes no difference.

    To all those who do, continue if it makes you happy. However, ask yourself "even though I always vote why:

    1. Are we engaged in a decade long illegal war that has everyhing to do with money and power struggles between the super elite and super wealthy and nothing to do with what is important everyday in my life.

    2. Why do multibillion dollar corporations pay less in taxes than my plumber neighbor?

    3. Why do the huge food comglomerates (Monsanto, Cargill etc...) allowed to posion our food, turn out god awful unhealthy franken foods and hold such a monopoly that the family farms that produce the healthiest and least enviornmentally damaging foods are being forced to close.

    4. Why does our government allow such a cozy relationship between lobbyist, government officials and corporations that promote nothing but government waste and a few rich people while the rest of us struggle.

    I could go on, but until their is transparency, honesty and morals in our government, FUCK EM ALL.

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