Thursday, October 18, 2012

Does your vote count?

Less than three weeks now until election day and I get more and more frustrated and angry every time I think about it. Not about the campaigns or the candidates, although there is plenty there to be angry and frustrated about. No, what frustrates me is our antiquated system of electing presidents and the knowledge that, as passionately as I may care about this election, my vote won't make one iota of difference!

You see, I live in Texas, a state that is completely dominated politically by anti-critical-thinking, evolution and climate change-denying, gun-worshiping, anti-women, immigrant-hating, gay-bashing, Bible-thumping tea party Republicans. And those people get to decide who gets Texas' electoral votes and it's only the electoral votes that matter in a presidential election. The individual votes of people like me who do not agree with the majority do not count at all. For all practical purposes, we might as well sit at home on election day.

It is the same for citizens who would vote Democratic throughout the deep South, where Republicans currently have a strangle-hold on the machinery of government and intend to keep it that way through voter-suppression. Moreover, Republican voters in states like California, New York, and Massachusetts have the same frustration. Their votes for president are absolutely worthless, like mine, because the electoral votes in those states will be awarded to the candidate picked by the heavy Democratic majority of voters.

I have never understood why our Founders saddled us with such a clumsy way of selecting our leader. One can only surmise that they had a deep mistrust of the ability of average citizens to make these important decisions. After all, they initially didn't allow for senators to be elected directly either. That was eventually changed, but still we limp along with this clumsy Electoral College system of electing presidents.

We've paid the price repeatedly throughout our history for failing to ensure a direct popular vote election for the president, where each person's vote has the same weight as her neighbor's. Most recently, in 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote in the country. Actually, he probably won the majority of electoral votes as well, but we'll never know because a meddling Supreme Court, eager for a Republican victory, stepped in and stopped the counting of votes in Florida, effectively appointing George W. Bush president. And the rest as they say is history, as are the lives of many, many thousands of innocents.

There is no way of really knowing whether a majority popular vote would select better presidents than our current system, but at least it would be fairer to all voters in all states and those of us in the minority in individual states would not have to feel that the act of voting is completely useless. I don't expect to see this undemocratic election system changed in my lifetime and so I will continue to struggle every four years with my anger and frustration. But I will also cast my protest vote, because I do not agree and it is the least - and the most - that I can do.

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