Saturday, August 11, 2012

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.


At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Presidential elections don't have to be this way.

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, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in more than 3/4ths of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the primaries.

When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc


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