Safe State Elections And The Wasted Vote
Something we don't often consider in presidential elections is that those elections aren't really nationwide in the sense of a popular vote.
Each state has their own election for President. The results determine which candidate gets that state's electoral votes. The 50 state's electoral votes determine who wins the White House.
Why does this matter? I look at it as a way of addressing the "wasted vote" argument, at least in what are called "safe" states as opposed to swing states.
A safe state is one where political leanings are considered strong enough to guarantee victory for one candidate. For instance, California- a strongly Democratic state- is a safe state for President Obama. There's little question he'll win this state even without trying.
This became an issue a few days back when I was reading comments on a story in the Sacramento Bee. One fellow commented that he liked Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate, Gary Johnson, but was worried about him "taking votes that would otherwise go to Romney".
I reminded him that, first of all, he's assuming Johnson voters would automatically vote for Romney. Second, it's the state vote count that matters, not the popular nationwide vote. Here in California there's pretty much no question Obama will win and thus take the state's electoral votes.
In a sense, since there's no chance of Romney winning this state, you could argue Romney votes are wasted votes. You could probably say the same with Obama voters: He's gonna win, anyway. Does your vote really count?
That's especially true for those who would prefer to vote for someone else but vote mostly against a candidate. How many times have you heard someone say he'd vote for some third party candidate but he's afraid of the Rep or Dem winning? I hear it all the time.
In safe states it really shouldn't matter. Since Obama is all but sure to win California, your vote is wasted if you vote for either Obama or Romney. The result, as far as the statewide election and its electoral votes, is all but assured.
The news keeps reporting that many voters want more choices and would be willing to vote for a third party candidate for President, but they rarely do. If you think of the race as a state race and live in a safe state, there's no reason not to vote for your real choice. Doing otherwise really is wasting your vote.
Just another reason to vote for Gary Johnson if you live in California.
Addendum: Pertinent section from Wikipedia on the Electoral College. Caps are mine for emphasis:
"...all states except Maine and Nebraska (explained below) use a winner-take-all system (as opposed to a majority electoral system) where the candidate who wins the most popular votes in a state wins all of that state's electoral votes. Under this system no advantage is gained by winning more than a plurality of the vote, nor is there any advantage gained by winning additional votes in a state that will still be lost. In other words, Presidential candidates have no incentive to spend time or resources in states they are likely to win or lose by a sizable margin."
I rest my case.