Here Are Five Reasons Your Vote Doesn’t Matter
The right to vote is a cornerstone in democracy, but it has some serious flaws.
Democrats and Republicans agree that to be a responsible citizen, voting is more important than paying taxes. Our right and responsibility to vote is so deeply ingrained in us that we rarely question the importance of our vote. I wish I could say our voting process is just imperfect. In reality, it’s a completely broken system that hurts the people it aims to serve.
Gerrymandering is best explained with this simple graphic, which shows how a political party with more supporters can still lose with unfair boundaries. Both political parties are guilty of this but Republicans better at it than Democrats. It’s easier to draw districts that favors Republican voters, who are spread out over suburban and rural areas, compared to Democrat voters, who are usually concentrated in urban areas.
Voters are not picking politicians. Politicians are picking voters.
Gerrymandering is extremely common and voters are completely powerless against it. A possible solution is using open-source software like Antimander to generate fair districts, but even algorithms are prone to tainted data and discrimination.
2. You Can’t Always Vote for Your Favorite Candidate
The US has two parties: Democrats and Republicans. Left and Right. If you want to vote for another party, you’re not just throwing away a vote, you’re actually helping the party you oppose.
You know a voting system sucks when voting for your favorite candidate might cause your least favorite candidate to win.
Here’s a non-political example:
Two dozen colleagues are trying to decide what to eat for lunch and there are three nominations: a popular vegetarian restaurant, a vegan restaurant, and a steakhouse. The results are in:
- 10 votes for the vegetarian restaurant
- 3 votes for the vegan restaurant
- 11 votes for the steakhouse
The steakhouse is the most popular by a single vote, but those who voted for the vegan restaurant would prefer the vegetarian restaurant. If the vegans compromised and voted for the vegetarian restaurant, more people would be happier. But that’s a problem, the vegan-voters shouldn’t have to decide between always compromising or have their voices drowned out by the majority vegetarians and carnivores. There needs to be a better voting system in place.
What if after losing, vegans could recast their vote for the vegetarian restaurant? Even if such a voting system exists, would it make a difference in the real world?
In the 2000 presidential election between Bush (R) vs. Gore (D), Gore lost Florida by 537 votes, but neither candidate held the majority. The 97,488 votes that went to Ralph Nader could have not only won Gore the state of Florida, but the entire 2020 presidential election.
Republicans are boosting Kanye West’s campaign to siphon votes away from Biden. A vote for Kanye is an indirect vote for Trump.
Ranked voting solves this fundamental voting issue by allowing voters to rank their choices, e.g. first choice, second choice, etc. Not only does this mean that vegans can have their votes counted towards the vegetarian restaurant, it also means that carnivores should actually try to persuade vegans by pointing vegan-friendly foods on the menu in an attempt to get a second choice vote. Republicans and Democrats would have to find ways appeal to third-party voters instead of completely disregarding them.
Ranked voting favors moderates with wider appeal than ideological extremes.
3. The Two-Party System
The inevitable result of a two-party system is polarization. “My way or the highway.” If you’re a Republican that supports better environmental policies, too bad. If you’re a Democrat that opposes raising taxes, too bad. While there’s a divide in the Democratic party between younger liberal voters and older moderate voters, there is a united hate against the Republican party.
In a two party system, neither party understands the other.
Democrats estimate that:
- Only half of Republicans recognize that racism still exists in America, but the actual number is four fifths
- Two fifths of Republicans think that Muslims are good Americans, but the actual number is two thirds
- Half of Republicans think controlled immigration can strengthen America, but the actual number is nine tenths
Republicans estimate that:
- Only half of Democrats are proud to be American despite the country’s problems, but the actual number is four fifths
- Four tenths of Democrats reject open borders, but the actual number is seven tenths
Contrary to what most people think, this “perception gap” gets worse with more education. Democrats with more degrees view Republicans more negatively.
The two party system is a false dichotomy where each voter uncompromisingly chooses between the Left or Right, even if they don’t completely agree with either side. Ideally, we should be allowed to vote on individual issues instead of politicians with ulterior motives.
4. Voting Against the Enemy
- Common people should not be allowed to vote for a captain of a ship; it should be reserved for sailors and those knowledge and experience of survival on ships.
- A sweet shop owner that offers free sweets and candy will win an election against a doctor who “gives you bitter potions and tells you not to eat and drink whatever you like.”
The doctor genuinely knows what’s best for people, but the sweet shop owner gives people what they want. Our modern society places a higher value on charismatic candidates who appeal to our emotions over those who make dry rational statements. It’s no wonder that the Democratic Party presidential debates is a game show instead of a round table discussion. They have similar views but need to stand out, which often leads to attacks and appealing to popular views.
The sweet shop owner is called a demagogue. The most infamous example of a demagogue in modern history is Adolf Hitler, who pledged to eliminate corruption and fix Germany’s post-World War I debt-ridden economy. Today, we have a modern demagogue, Donald Trump, who was not only elected on lies and empty promises, but attacks and fires anyone who gets in his way.
Debates worsen this problem by favoring candidates who get reactions from the audience. In the 2020 presidential debates, Biden will probably “lose” against Trump because Trump doesn’t play by the same rules as everyone else. He uses name-calling like “Crooked Hillary” and “Lying Ted”. While most politicians lie or use misleading facts during debates, Trump does it more. In a 2016 presidential debate, Trump made 13 false statements and Hillary made 2.
Campaigns become war zones with united anger and hate against common enemies. Elizabeth Warren wants to break up Big-Tech. Bernie wants to cancel student loan debt. And no matter how you feel about Trump, you can’t deny his campaign’s potency. He called coronavirus the “Chinese Virus” and managed to make wearing a mask political. His words provoke powerful emotional cocktails of hatred and anger. Fact checkers can’t keep up with him. Maybe we should cancel the presidential debates this year? Or at least set reasonable debate conditions, because Trump plays by his own rules.
Trump plays to win at any cost.
Every politician fuels the narrative of voting against your enemy. Even if the enemy of your enemy isn’t your friend.
5. The Illusion of Choice
We don’t have a true choice when we vote. Our system of voting is a multiple-choice questionnaire with preselected candidates. So the important question we must ask ourselves is “who does the selecting?”
First, imagine a voting system where only white people vote in the primary election. So before blacks and Hispanics can vote in the general election, candidates have already gone through a filter of white voters’ preferences. It’s easy to see why this is a bad system. And yet, the Democratic Party used to hold white primaries.
“I don’t care who does the electing, as long as I get to do the nominating.”
Now, imagine a voting system where the economic elites, the top 2% of income earners in America, control the ballots. It’s easy to see why this is a bad system for average voters. And yet, this is exactly how modern-day politics operates in America.
Fundraising is a major component in every campaign that requires donors with disposable income and volunteers with free time, luxuries that most Americans can’t afford. In fact, the top 100 donors gave almost as much as 4.75 million small donors combined. It’s no surprise that a multivariate analysis shows that economic elites have a substantial impact on US government policy and average citizens have little or no influence.
Economic elites and business interest groups have a high impact over influencing policies, while average citizens have almost no influence.
Politicians always talk about the big policies they want to pass. Those top ten policies with high visibility to gain public support and trust. But what about issues 11–100? Policies that benefit a few while flying under the radar and hurting average citizens. Policies like banning the government from offering free online tax filing. Politicians can also ignore working on minor beneficial policies that may upset their major donors.
Average citizens are dealt a shitty hand. There is no mulligan. And the economic elites are organized interest groups are the ones dealing the hand.
But You Should Still Vote!
Everyone is playing a game where the rules are written by a few. The only way to win is to write the rules, break the rules, or stop playing. Refusing to vote isn’t enough to stop playing — you need to leave the country. In fact, Americans crashed the Canadian immigration website on election day in 2016.
Writing the rules is a privilege reserved for those who are running the country. Not just politicians, but also those who with influence over politicians. Breaking the rules is for those who can get away with it or have nothing to lose.
For the rest of us, we will have little choice but to keep playing by the rules. Their rules. We can complain all day on reddit, but at the end of the day action is what matters. No matter how broken our voting system is, we must vote.
Voting amplifies our voice.
“Don’t give up! I believe in you all. A person’s a person, no matter how small! And you very small persons will not have to die. If you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!”
- Dr. Seuss, From Horton Hears a Who!