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Author Topic: "My vote won't make any difference...."  (Read 2685 times)

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Online MithlomwenTopic starter

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"My vote won't make any difference...."
« on: November 01, 2012, 11:40:15 AM »
I was chatting with a friend of mine the other day, when the inevitable topic of the up and coming election reared it's head.  She asked me if I was going to vote.  I told her that I was, and asked her if she would be.  Her answer was no.  I asked her why not, and she rattled off the excuses of not wanting/having time to stand in line....etc, and that there really wasn't any point, her vote wouldn't make any difference anyway. 

I paused for a moment, trying to think of something besides, "Every vote counts!" to say to her.  Not able to come up with anything, I just let the subject drop, but it got me thinking.  Does one vote really make that much of a difference?  I'll be the first to admit that I'm not very well versed on the whole Electoral system.  But from my understanding, once voting is closed, the votes for each candidate (I'm referring to Presidential not local) are tallied.  Once a winner is established, said winner then wins the Electoral votes for that particular state correct?  Each state has a different number of Electoral votes, if I remember correctly?  So the candidate that ends up with the most Electoral votes wins the election.  If not, please correct me.  :-) 

But anyway.....as I ramble on....

What do you say to people who say that one vote won't really make any difference in the scheme of things? 

Offline Iniquitous

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2012, 12:15:25 PM »
Actually, my understanding is that our votes are called the 'popular votes' and just because a candidate wins the popular vote does not mean they will win the election because the Electoral College has not had it's vote.

The Electoral College is a controversial mechanism of presidential elections that was created by the framers of the U.S. Constitution as a compromise for the presidential election process. At the time, some politicians believed a purely popular election was too reckless, while others objected to giving Congress the power to select the president. The compromise was to set up an Electoral College system that allowed voters to vote for electors, who would then cast their votes for candidates, a system described in Article II, section 1 of the Constitution.

Each state has a number of electors equal to the number of its U.S. senators plus the number of its U.S. representatives. Currently, the Electoral College includes 538 electors, 535 for the total number of congressional members, and three who represent Washington, D.C., as allowed by the 23rd Amendment. Most of the time, electors cast their votes for the candidate who has received the most votes in that particular state. Some states have laws that require electors to vote for the candidate that won the popular vote, while other electors are bound by pledges to a specific political party. However, there have been times when electors have voted contrary to the people's decision, and there is no federal law or Constitutional provision against it.

So, going by that, I tend to agree that one person's vote does not really matter.

Online Oniya

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Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2012, 12:17:22 PM »
Well, first off, even if she doesn't believe her vote for President will count, there are all of those local issues to be decided on.  It's not like you walk in, get handed a slip of paper with the presidential candidates on them, and that's the only check-box to mark.  There are representatives to vote for or against (which can then affect how 'well' the President does), local mandates (where did that 'long grass fine' come from?), and local budget issues (more money for schools?).  Those things are also more likely to affect her directly, compared to the seemingly abstract drop in the Electoral College bucket.

There are two states that have provisions for splitting their Electoral vote - Maine and Nebraska - using the Congressional Districts as 'counters' (win the popular vote in a district, and get that district's electoral vote).  Nebraska is the only one that has actually done so, and it was in the 2008 election.  Otherwise, you have the idea of the Electoral College right - get the popular vote in the state, even by 50.1%, and you get all the Electoral Votes.

Online Callie Del Noire

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2012, 12:27:00 PM »
You know, there are some claims that Bush won florida by less than 700 votes in 2000 and New Mexico by less. Can't find the source at the moment, but it could be argued that a LOT of the 'voter reform' actions of the last 4 years was in response to the electorate finally VOTING.

If we continue vote, and do other thing I've preached about here and elsewhere, sooner or later folks in the parties WILL realize that things are a changing.

Online Valerian

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2012, 01:33:16 PM »
From the time I was about five, my dad took me with him when he went to vote so that I could learn about the process in a more concrete way then they teach at schools.  My dad knew many of the volunteers at the local polling place personally, as well as a good many of the candidates and serving politicians at the state and local levels.  Throughout my childhood he encouraged me to learn about the system, to study the candidates and the issues, pay attention, get different perspectives, be involved, and I've tried to do that.

Local elections are the most obvious reasons for those doubtful types to go and vote, but as Callie mentioned, voter turnout is also a big issue.  Many politicians may comfortably assume that the vast majority will never start paying attention, and even if they do, they won't bother to vote because one vote seems like nothing.  But if more and more people actually do start showing up and casting votes, that just might make a big difference.

Offline Chris Brady

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2012, 01:50:48 PM »
Actually, IO pointed out, your vote does NOT matter because you Americans have a barrier between you and your choice.  The Electoral College.  Like she says (And my dad confirmed, as he was an American until the mid 60s) there are some states that will vote one way or the other no matter what the popular vote decides.  And the other issue is that outside of a few notable ones, not many people know if their State is one of them or not.

Do you know if your State is?

Online Valerian

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2012, 02:37:58 PM »
What you're talking about is called a faithless elector.  Twenty-four states have laws that allow them to charge faithless electors with a misdemeanor, which also carries a fine.

I don't think the entire issue of faithless electors is as significant as you're making it out to be, either.  Until the 2000 election (where the main problem was not so much with the electoral college as with that embarrassing mess of hanging chads in Florida), the last time a difference between popular vote and electoral vote actually changed the outcome of a U.S. presidential election was when Benjamin Harrison won in 1888.  It's a rare thing for an elector to change his or her vote.  Electors make a pledge to follow the popular vote, and most of them take that pretty seriously.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2012, 02:41:53 PM »
I suppose the new face of the issue, this time around, is that Sandy will matter much more to the vote than any individual voter, or even any group of five hundred voters in an individual state. Both directly - making it harder to get to polling stations, wrecking some people's ID papers, illness - and indirectly because of the reporting on the hurricane (probably good for Obama) and some cancelled events. But I'm not counting on any suggestions to move the elections ahead three or four days, although it would probably be possible...


Tight elections? Yes, they occur even outside of the US. Two years ago around here, the parliamentory elections came down to a margin of 26 votes in two regions in western Sweden. If the liberal party, which was and is part of the cabinet coalition - and which isn't a big one because so many of the others have gone liberal in some way - had got those votes or had got thirty more of their own core voters out, there would have been a safe majority - and there's no electoral college here. For a population óf American size the margin would have been slightly below a thousand ballots. But that was in a multi-party system - with two cabinet alternatives, each backed by three or four outfits, and there was a newcomer, um, ultra-right wing party involved that no one really wanted to be supported by, so it was a bit special.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2012, 02:44:09 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline consortium11

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2012, 03:12:47 AM »
Two years ago around here, the parliamentory elections came down to a margin of 26 votes in two regions in western Sweden. If the liberal party, which was and is part of the cabinet coalition - and which isn't a big one because so many of the others have gone liberal in some way - had got those votes or had got thirty more of their own core voters out, there would have been a safe majority - and there's no electoral college here.

There may be no formal electoral college but in practice (when was the last time the faithless electors were an issue?) the use of regions/constituencies as opposed to a nation wide popular vote does render some votes virtually meaningless. To give an example I'm most familiar with, the UK has a first-past-the-post constituency parliamentary system; that is each constituency tables up the votes and elects the person with the most votes to parliament. The party with the most members of parliament gets to (attempt to) form the government and its leader becomes Prime Minister. What that means in practice is that if in a single constituency a party gets one less vote than the eventual winner it gets nothing.

The effect of this can be seen quite easily; the Conservatives had roughly 47% seats in parliament from 36% of the vote, Labour had roughly 40% of the seats from 29% of the vote and the Liberal Democrats had roughly 9% of the seats from 23% of the votes. Under such systems it's far more important to have focused support in smaller areas than less focused support across the country.

You can look at the contrasting fortunes of our largest "small" parties. UKIP (essentially libertarians) had 920,000 votes (about 3%) but had no seats, BNP (right wing socialists) had 565,000 votes (about 2%) but had no seats while the Green Party had 265,000 votes (about 1%) but gained a seat as much of that was focused in a single constituency while both the BNP and UKIP had a larger vote but spread across more constituencies. It's better to come 1st once and dead last every other time then to come 2nd in every constituency.

As such votes are "wasted". Even for the three major parties there are some places where unless the world spins off its axis they won't be elected in the foreseeable future and therefore a vote for them doesn't really matter. For smaller parties it's even worse; unless a situation similar to the Greens in the last election happens the best you can hope your vote to achieve is to "send a message". I've voted in every election that I've been able to but because of the nature of the constituencies I've lived in and my own political views I know the chances of my vote really making a difference are essentially nil.

Offline Vekseid

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2012, 03:37:54 AM »
Actually, IO pointed out, your vote does NOT matter because you Americans have a barrier between you and your choice.  The Electoral College.  Like she says (And my dad confirmed, as he was an American until the mid 60s) there are some states that will vote one way or the other no matter what the popular vote decides.  And the other issue is that outside of a few notable ones, not many people know if their State is one of them or not.

Do you know if your State is?

The electoral college now only elects the president.

The president actually has relatively few powers in the US. It's considered important insofar as they have the bully pulpit, a tiebreaking vote in the Senate, massive powers of appointment, some small degree of resource allotment, and represent our diplomatic face at the highest level.

The most powerful decisionmaking bodies in the United States are the state legislative branches. If 3/4ths of them unite behind a cause they can enact any change in government short of removing states of their senatorial representation.

Offline Skynet

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2012, 02:33:56 PM »
Here's how I think of it.

If enough people became politically apathetic, then it can make a difference.  Many college-aged people don't bother voting, and the Baby Boomer generation's the group which goes out to the polls most often.  So in many cases you get elected officials with extreme positions or whose views don't match the majority of voters.

I view my votes as bringing a candidate one step closer to victory.  If I feel that they represent my ideology and values, I've got no problem endorsing them with a vote: it's a way of saying "I approve of your positions."

Online Valerian

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2012, 02:52:48 PM »
Just ran across this linked on another site:

Paul Weyrich - "I don't want everybody to vote" (Goo Goo)

Paul Weyrich, the man in the video, has since passed away, but he was an ultra-conservative, who helped found groups such as the right-wing think tank, the Heritage Foundation.  He was also in favor of creating a Christian nation, governed according to a conservative interpretation of biblical law.  Michele Bachmann has similar goals, for instance.

It's a short clip, but it deals directly with what's been discussed here.  Here's what Weyrich had to say (emphasis mine):

Quote
Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome — good government. They want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.

Offline Serephino

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2012, 03:07:46 PM »
This is how my Civics teacher put it, and I think it has a a lot of truth to it.  Whoever wins elections affects everyone, yet, only a small percentage of eligible voters are actually registered, and less than half of those actually vote.  Back then at least, the average person who actually voted was age 35-65.  This means that politicians only have to make that demographic happy.  They don't have to do what's best for the country as a whole, just what will get the people who actively vote.  In short, not voting is sitting back and letting others make major decisions for you.   

Offline Shjade

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2012, 04:29:36 PM »
The issue I have with this topic isn't so much that "my vote doesn't matter." I understand votes matter, perhaps more in some cases than in others. The issue I have is that votes can only be taken for the options available.

Voting for "the lesser of two evils" seems somehow wrongheaded to me, and voting for someone who isn't in the two major parties (specifically in presidential elections, of course) really does mean your vote makes no difference for all the impact it has on the outcome.

See also: song of the month.

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2012, 11:15:27 AM »
In addition to voting for the presidential candidates...

~~ Learn about and support your local candidates including judges
~~ Learn about and support your state candidates including judges
~~ Learn about and vote on referendums, issues and acts that will effect your community and state
~~ Learn about and vote on national issues that come up for a vote

Each vote not cast is a vote lost and in close elections those lost votes could have effected the outcome.

Online Callie Del Noire

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2012, 11:21:11 AM »
In addition to voting for the presidential candidates...

~~ Learn about and support your local candidates including judges
~~ Learn about and support your state candidates including judges
~~ Learn about and vote on referendums, issues and acts that will effect your community and state
~~ Learn about and vote on national issues that come up for a vote

Each vote not cast is a vote lost and in close elections those lost votes could have effected the outcome.

Additionally for Judges.. LEARN WHY they are up for recall. We have SIX Judges up for recall. I looked into it because of a segment on PBS. Turned out a lot of folks were pushing to have them sent out because they weren't militantly Tea Party in outlook.

Offline Caehlim

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #16 on: November 09, 2012, 10:40:53 PM »
What do you say to people who say that one vote won't really make any difference in the scheme of things?

Well, they are correct.

Their vote, individually, doesn't make a difference and the investment of time and money required to become politically aware, educated and informed on the issues and then to take political action is huge compared to the extremely low percentage of the population that any individual's vote represents.

Don't get me wrong, I want everyone to vote because I think that once a group of the populace becomes known for not voting, the government feels free to disregard their opinions because it no longer affects their election chances. Then some really horrible stuff can start to happen.

But it's one of those nasty game theory problems, where the effect on the group level is very different to the effect on the individual level. To persuade someone to vote, is persuading them to take actions against their own best interest. However persuading everyone to vote benefits everyone in the group.

That makes it difficult to argue for voting, while at the same time showing how important it is to do.

Sorry that's not much of a solution. But it's how I see the problem.

Offline ExisD

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #17 on: November 10, 2012, 04:26:00 AM »
Even if one person's vote becomes "worthless" because of all of the other people voting there is still a reason to vote.

A few years ago I got to speak with a few congressmen about their jobs and they told me, at least in their eyes, the most important reason to vote. Voting makes your elected officials more likely to listen to you if you call them up about an issue.

It is easy to find out which elections someone voted in, not how the voted. If you contact an official about something many will pull up your history and use that as part of the metric of wither or not their constituents as a whole feel like this. The more elections that you've voted in, relative to your age, the higher they rate your opinion on an issue. Not everyone does this, but even if there are a few who do it makes voting a very important thing to do.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2012, 04:43:19 AM by ExisD »

Offline Vekseid

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2012, 04:31:22 AM »
It's also easy to underestimate the power of your state legislature and gathering friends to vote.

A US rep might think you're insignificant. This is much less true of state-level reps

Offline Stattick

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2012, 05:12:49 AM »
Man looses election because his wife didn't vote. Yep, the election was tied... and his wife didn't vote. Who says that one vote can't make a difference?

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/race-city-council-tied-wife-candidate-doesn-t-161355890.html

Offline Moraline

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #20 on: November 12, 2012, 08:09:44 PM »
On the topic of, "Does my vote make a difference?"

The answer is, "yes." Your voice and your opinion matter. It's not just a vote, it's an act of engagement. It's the act of contributing to something greater then yourself. Like dropping a can of food into the foodbank. It might not mean much among 1000 lbs of food but it does make a difference and if we all just slacked off and said "our votes don't count," then not voting is a form of a vote as well. It ends up having a profound impact as part of the greater social machine.

Give a penny to your favorite charity, pick up a piece of trash, smile and say "Hi" to someone that you don't know, open a door for an elderly person, give your child just one more hug for no reason at all. It all makes a difference.

Your one vote by itself doesn't do much but all of those "one votes" make a massive difference.

... Now because I'm a hypocrite, I have to confess.   

I don't vote. I don't believe in the politicians. I have no faith in the system and I don't see anyone that is better then the others. I have no one and no party that I want to vote for. They are all corrupt, emotionally bankrupt and soulless parts of an immense political system that has no heart. All I see in government is corruption and greed.

To this end I say, "Give me a system and someone worth voting for and I'll give them my vote."


Online Callie Del Noire

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #21 on: November 12, 2012, 08:59:09 PM »
To which I must retort..

"If you don't invest yourself in the effort of changing it.. it will never change."

Offline Moraline

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #22 on: November 12, 2012, 09:24:29 PM »
Voting for things I hate, loathe, and detest doesn't change it either.

Instead...

I fight for change in other ways. I protest, I support causes that seek change, I educate people that ask about the things that governments are doing wrong and I suggest ways in which they can affect changes that are needed.

I'm Canadian but when the US was voting on the subject of SOPA I fought for months online to stop it. I helped websites that supported stopping it and I spread the word and educated as many as I could. I like to think that I made a difference.

If my local government had elected representatives that cared about things like this and weren't so corrupt then I'd go out and vote for that representative. (Which I have done in the past but currently there is no one that I support.) 

Instead we have politicians from top to bottom that only spend their time looking at dollar signs and concerning themselves with big business. Local politicians only seek office because they get a fat pension out of it and a cushy job that only goes on for a few months out of the year. They seek office to push gov't contracts into the hands of their relatives and friends. The system is morally bankrupt. I refuse to vote for one lesser evil over another.

Until I have a representative that has morals and a heart. I refuse to waste my time on them. Hell, I'd even vote for the local corrupt pigs if they had an honest and moral party leader up in the feds. However, they don't. They are all douche-whistles.

Online Callie Del Noire

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #23 on: November 12, 2012, 09:39:29 PM »
If you don't participate in the process and perform your duty as a citizen how can you expect the system to consider your desires and wants on how to reform it?

I'm all for participating in reform movements.. but if  you don't do your duty and vote.. you diminish the numbers.. and sheer numbers of voters increasing again and again will have the effect of showing those who WOULD step up that people want change.. sooner or later we'll get more and more good men and women stepping up to serve.. but if you don't do your part.. you're enabling the status quo.

I'm betting you're going to see a MAJOR schism in the GOP if the trend of younger voters and minorities to step up and do their duty. Want to bet at least in SOME jurisdictions in the next 18 months that the GOP will reverse their immigration legislation.. because the latinios.. who they EXPECTED to vote more conservative.. didn't.

Offline Moraline

Re: "My vote won't make any difference...."
« Reply #24 on: November 12, 2012, 09:52:36 PM »
Now see that is an excellent reason to vote and a good argument for it. You should have said that instead of what you did in response to my post earlier.

That being said however....

Should I vote for a corrupt local politician just so I can register a vote against another politician that is corrupt as well? All of this in the name of encouraging them to make or counter encourage some governmental change?

I simple refuse to pick the lesser of two evils.

It's not right and I stand against it. I vote my conscious. My non-vote is my vote for change and if you knew me then you'd see me stand up and make that voice heard. (Just like I'm doing right now.)