Does your vote matter?

To check, you can visit this handy web-app:

Your vote should matter in this upcoming 2012 presidential election, right? We live in a democracy, after all. Well, it turns out that for most people in the US, your vote won’t impact the national election one bit.

The problem is the electoral college system we have in the US. Entire states are won or lost in the electoral college. This means that if you are a democrat in a republican state, your vote has no effect. It’s extinguished by the republican majority and never makes it out of the state (and the same argument applies for republicans in overwhelmingly democrat states).

So most states are locked up for one party or the other. In this current election there are only a couple of states that could go either way — the swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. If you look at the numbers here, these 9 states only make up 33% of the population of the US. In other words, the election basically rests on how only a third of the US votes.

While you can say it more gently, I’ll be blunt: It’s dumb. We have better and more fair information available to us (the popular vote), or if you want a smaller change we can there at least divide electoral college votes more fairly instead of a winner-takes-all system (two states do this already).

The electoral college is dumb. And our current “majority vote” system itself is dumb (you only vote for one candidate, not a list of your preferences among candidates). There are much better voting systems, that at least make it so third party candidates can’t change the entire outcome of an election (although no voting system is perfect).

Anyways, the voting situation here is like using a mainframe computer (from the 1700′s)¬†because it worked okay back then — when you could have a modern laptop that is a thousand times better.¬†Everyone who studies voting knows it’s broken.

I guess the reason that it doesn’t change is that politicians don’t want to give up a game they know how to play (even if it’s busted) for one that’s more fair but less predictable. Or maybe there’s just nothing¬†politically to be gained from it.

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