Reform America In The News
Every Vote Counts -- Just Another Election Fallacy
(As Printed in the Smithtown News, November 16, 2000)
Executive Director, Reform America
We are hearing repeated over and over since we entered this electoral dilemma that every vote counts. Just look, pundits and politicians say, at how close the vote is in Florida. The race can be determined by one vote.
Yes, the race can be determined by one vote, but that does not mean every vote counts. In fact, this election has proven the opposite - every vote does not count.
I voted for Ralph Nader in my home state of Maryland, where he got nearly 3% of the vote. What do I have to show for it? Nothing. No consolation prize; no electoral college vote. How about the 40% of Maryland voters who cast their ballot for Bush? Surely they, if nobody else, should have something to show for performing their civic duty. Nope. Sorry. You 40% of silly Maryland Republicans voted for the loser. Nothing for you. Now for you 60% of politically wise Marylanders who voted for Gore, you get everything -- all ten electoral college votes! Tell me - whose vote actually counted here? Only the first 41% of voters who cast their ballot for Gore.
How about Iowa voters? Ralph Nader got 2.1% of the vote. George Bush got 48.2% of the vote. Al Gore got 48.6% of the vote. Quick math - that would mean Gore won by only .4% of total votes cast. Surely with such a close race and nearly 50% of Iowan voters coming out for Bush we can't give all seven electoral college votes to Gore. Nope. He wins it all. Sorry Bush and Nader supporters; we realize your two groups combined represent more than half the state's voters, but you are walking away with nothing.
We all know what's happening in Florida. The final vote tally will reflect a net difference between Bush and Gore of a fraction of a percent. Still, sorry to the voters who chose the loser - you get nothing.
Can we change this? Let's go back to Maryland. How about we allocate the electoral college votes in proportion to the popular vote received by each candidate? That would mean Maryland's ten votes would be divided as such: four for George Bush and six for Al Gore. Every vote counted! No, Nader didn't get any of Maryland's votes, but if his support increased to equal more approximately 10% of the voting population then one of Maryland's ten votes would have gone for Nader.
How about Iowa? Since it would be more difficult to divide an individual electoral college vote Iowa with its seven votes poses a bit more of a challenge, but we can certainly make the vote allocation process much more representative. We would give three votes to Bush and three to Gore. Once again, every vote counts!
If we set a quota - a minimum percent of the vote received - in each state in order to receive electoral college votes at say 5% (the actual quota would have to be determined state by state based upon each state's number of electoral votes and number of voters) the current electoral gridlock we have today would still be with us, and all eyes would still be on Florida. As things currently stand in the vote tally, though, should the election be called right now, George Bush and Al Gore would split Florida's twenty-five electoral votes thirteen to twelve respectively. Either way, Al Gore would win the Presidency, because he would be put over the 270 mark, which is consistent with the popular vote nationwide and the proportional will of the people in each and every state.
The proportional allocation of electoral votes in each state might not be the best way to go here, but it's a step in the right direction of further empowering each individual voter. We need to start having a serious discussion about this and to get out of the short-term mindset that every vote actually counts (just look at Florida!), a lesson that may be forgotten in four years time. So step out of the chorus falsely singing today "every vote counts - look how close the race is!" and join the effort to truly make your vote count in each and every election.
Reform America, Inc. (RAI) has been formed with the purpose of developing the leadership skills of young Americans while engaging the public in the political and voting process. RAI is committed to engaging the young people of America in a drive towards reforming the voting systems and other entrenched but undemocratic institutional procedures in the United States. RAI is determined to show the country that America's youth are ready to make a difference where it counts. For more information visit ReformAmericaInc.org.
Reform America, Inc.