(I am an American, so this post is about the United States election system. If you are a non-American reader, I would love to hear about how your election systems differ)
Many times I have heard people claim they don’t vote because it isn’t like their vote matters anyway; in the end the Electoral college chooses, not the people. And in a sense they are right. Since the US is a Republic, we choose representatives based on population. Therefore states with more population have more electoral votes in the college. Therefore places more heavily populated tend to get favored in the Electoral college.
Except for two facts:
The Electoral College has only gone against the popular vote 4 times
And three of those times were in the 1800s. The fourth time was the infamous 2000 election between Gore and Bush which will live in infamy.
But four times in 228 years. 57 presidential elections. So 93% of the time it mirrors the popular vote.
This one is interesting as it not only differed from popular vote, but tied, which led to the House of Representatives tie breaking. Of course there ended up being corruption and J.Q. Adams (A Federalist) won by allegedly promising another candidate Secretary of State.
(To be fair, I don’t particularly like Andrew Jackson(a Democratic-Republican), so the idea that he was kept away for at least four years is good to me, but historically this was probably more questionable than the 2000 election, and we all saw how that went).
Just think of the 2000 election, but with the party rhetoric being reversed. by this time the Democratic-Republicans had split to become the Democrats and the GOP whose platform was much different then it is today. The Democrats were accused of voter intimidation, particularly of minorities and were having a heavier support in the south. A Republican, Rutherford B. Hayes, ended up winning in the end.
Grover Cleveland basically lost his first reelection bid by losing in northern states by small margins. Therefore the state’s electoral votes would go to the other guy (Benjamin Harrison) but with his win by larger margins in smaller states he ended up having more of the popular vote.
Like Jackson, he just waited four years and ran again, winning and becoming the only president to win two terms non-consecutively.
I don’t think I really need to summarize this one. Its relatively recent in the memory of the American public. It brought to our knowledge the issue of hanging chads, recounts and public disgruntlement.
The American Public has a poor showing in the polls
If you choose not to vote, you are choosing to have your vote not counted. If you vote, and it goes differently than you hoped, it is not that your vote doesn’t count. It did. However the US averaged at 53% in 2012. Only half of those eligible to vote actually did so, and only 89% of those who actually registered voted. So have the country stayed home and decided not to be counted, and even those who registered to be counted actually showed up.
Its even lower when one looks at mid-term elections. in 2014 voter turnout was 39%. And according to that link, Alaska had the highest turn outs in the nation, and they only had 54%
Turn out is important to any democracy, including the United States which is a democratic republic in reality. Disengagement with your government allows the government to fall out of your hands.
If you want to enact change, the first step is to show up at the voting polls. Try to change things internally. Vote in local elections, so that your local governments can change. Often times politicians start at local government positions, so if you vote the right people in locally, you might find yourself with a better selection nationally later on in life.
You should research your state’s registration laws. Most have a cut off date for registration (and you must register to vote). Also, if you live away at school or don’t have the actual time to visit the local polling place, you should look up what it would take to get a absentee ballot, which is how I voted in the last presidential election as I was at college and couldn’t come home for the day.
In order to make the US a functioning democracy, people need to start voting. Participation is key. And voting consciously, not just by party. Look into whose running. Do a little homework. Sometimes you do end up having to choose the least of two evils, but at least you’ll know what evil you are voting in. And if more people participate maybe we can get in some less evil.
I honestly don’t know who I’m voting for yet. I’m a registered Independent and in my state the law does not permit me to vote in either primary, so I have to wait till the general election to vote.