You Might Not Get to Choose the President This Year

You Might Not Get to Choose the President This Year

Alexis ChapmanThursday,28 July 2016

First of all, your vote definitely counts. A representative democracy only works if people vote, and the more informed we are and the more we vote the better it works. And your vote counts a ton in your state and local elections. For instance if you live in Eastern Tennessee please go out and vote against Rick Tyler for Congress, his slogan is “Make America White Again.” Or if you live in Iowa you should vote against Steve King, who is also racist and also running for Congress but has already been elected a couple times. And your Senate vote could help decide which Party has control of the Senate starting next year, especially if you live in one of the states with a closely contested Senate race.

In a very real way your vote counts a lot. But in another way, a picking the next president sort of way, your vote doesn’t count unless you live in certain states. This is due to the Electoral College system the founding fathers put in place because they didn’t trust the general public to pick a President (Joke’s on them, the Electoral College has never stopped us from picking a bad president!) In order to win the presidency a candidate needs to get 270 Electoral College votes. As of right now Clinton has about 190 in the bag based on the combined Electoral votes of the solidly “blue” states. (No state is really as red or as blue as this system leads us to believe but that’s another story.) And Trump probably has 163 from the reliably red states.

The states that are very much up in the air, and therefore get to pick the president this year, are Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire. Two that may swing but will probably stay blue are Michigan and Minnesota, while Arizona and Georgia are likely, but not guaranteed, to stay red. Maine and Nebraska voters actually get to have a say in every election because those states can split their electoral votes and give some to each candidate based on the percentage of the popular vote they won. Of course if the people in the other states don’t vote in large numbers the way we’re predicted to then yes any state could be a swing state, but realistically that’s not going to happen.

If you live in one of the states listed then your vote for president counts and you should vote for Hillary Clinton. There are a number of specific reasons to vote for Clinton over Trump, even if you don’t “like” her or were hoping for someone else. The simplest reason you should vote for her is because being President of the United States is a job, a very important job, and of the two available candidates Hillary Clinton will do the job far better than Donald Trump would.

If you don’t live in one of the above-mentioned states obviously you can still vote for Clinton, it’s a smart prudent vote, especially if you support her. But, non-swing-state voters aren’t under the same pressure to stop Trump and could use this election as an opportunity to put your vote to more strategic use by voting for a third party.

The two party system does not have to be the kind of a scorched earth zero sum game it’s become. It could potentially be a system that ensures that all sides are heard in debate and encourages an exchange of ideas that leads to reasonable compromise. In order for that kind of politics, or something less fantastical than that but more functional than the current system, we need parties that effectively counter balance each other. The Libertarian Party’s truly small government ideals may now be a better counter balance to the Democratic Party’s strong government programs than the Republican Platform, which advocates big government military spending and government promoting certain religious values in people’s personal lives. Votes for Gary Johnson could help strengthen the Libertarians to eventually supplant the Republicans as the second major party, just as the Republicans supplanted the previously powerful Whigs in the mid 1800s.

There is also the potential to use a presidential vote not to end a party but to change it. Bernie Sanders didn’t get the nomination but he and his supporters have certainly succeeded in heavily influencing the platform of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Presidential votes for Green Party candidate Jill Stein can send a signal about the importance of environmental issues to voters and the more people vote for her the stronger that signal is to both. A rigid two party system is also not the only option. In Australia for instance they have two main parties and a number of smaller parties that also wield power by forming coalitions. Votes for third party and independent candidates who you support for President or lower offices can help to bring more voices into the decision making process.

Probably the most compelling reason to vote third party this election is that one of the other candidates better represents your views and values. Or maybe you’re just fed up with the Republican Party nonsense or the Democratic Party’s shenanigans, or fed up with the whole system that has Florida of all places mostly in charge of choosing our President. Whatever the reason, a third party vote won’t topple the system or fix all the problems, but it is one way to make your presidential vote count even if you don’t happen to live in a swing state.

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Image Credit: Erik Hersman on Flickr

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