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Voting matters

November 15, 2013

Elections are tricky things. We are all taught in civics classes how streamlined the process is supposed to be. But, in reality, it isn’t that streamlined. There are so many dynamics involved in elections that an individual person seems to get lost in the mix. Maybe that is why only 60 percent of potential voters vote in presidential elections and even less in midterms or off-year elections. Does one vote really matter?

A typical argument for decreased participation is that some feel the Electoral College system of Presidential elections take away from the voter turnout in clear partisan states. When we consider the voting demographics for Illinois during recent presidential elections, it seems near impossible to imagine the state going to the Republican candidate in 2016. Because the state is a winner-take-all those who vote for the Republican candidate are, in effect, unheard.

If this is true, why do more people vote in Presidential elections then in state wide elections? In 2012, there were 5,247,172 votes cast in Illinois in Presidential voting. In 2010, there were 3,729,987 votes cast in the Governor’s race. One theory is that voters aren’t that practical and it is more about the prestige of the office than the efficiency of their vote.

So, does voting matter? Residents in Virginia would probably answer yes. In the 2013 race for Attorney General there is currently a 164 vote gap between the Mark Herring (D) and Mark Obenshain (R). This is with a total of 2.2 million votes cast. Most likely, there will be a recount which will have to verify the results. In 2003, current Governor Bob McDonnell won the same office with only 360 votes.

History, though, doesn’t favor the argument for the significance of on a single vote. According to an article on Reason.com, “A 2001 National Bureau of Economic Research paper by economists Casey Mulligan and Charles Hunter looked at 56,613 contested congressional and state legislative races dating back to 1898. Of the 40,000 state legislative elections they examined, encompassing about 1 billion votes cast, only seven were decided by a single vote (two were tied).”

In the end, the question of does a vote matter is a purely philosophical argument. Our founding fathers choose this system because it represented the best way to allow the people to have control and voice in their government. Part of that voice is the choice to not exercise it and to believe that voting is a waste of time. This is true regardless of how some voters in Illinois and Virginia feel.

Elisha French
Politcal Editor

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