Throw Away Your Vote

voting-twainThis post may seem somewhat cynical but it’s really not. If anything it should be empowering. I have decided to vote third party this election and have heard the outcry of ‘you are throwing your vote away’.  Well, the truth is that my individual vote  doesn’t really matter to begin with. What does matter is the act of voting. This is especially true in the presidential election.

What! I can hear you saying. How can Rachel the patriot be saying that a vote doesn’t matter? Let me state again- VOTING MATTERS, A VOTE DOES NOT.

Statistically speaking voting is not a utility maximizing activity.  Almost any activity you can do has more of an impact than voting. In just the state of Utah there are 2 million people of eligible voting age. Of those people about a 1/3rd actually vote (which is a crime). So, around 700,000 people vote in a Utah presidential election. Just think about it. My vote in Utah has a 1/700,000 chance of impacting the race in just my state. This means it is statistically nearly worthless.  You’d have better chances of entering some lotteries or playing poker in Vegas.

These statistics are made even worse in a presidential election where the popular vote may not even matter at all. United States citizens do not actually elect the president of the United States. The electoral college gives states power over popular consensus by awarding delegates based on their representation in Congress. In theory the delegates are supposed to vote with their states electorate will but they are not required to do so. Typically the votes go on a win-all basis so if Utah goes Republican than the electoral college will give 6 Republican votes. Maine and Nebraska are exceptions to this rule. 

You can debate the value of the electoral college but for the moment it is here and it can have an impact on the election. For example, in 2000 Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral college to George W Bush. If you are one of these 538 electoral delegates than your vote does matter but statistically speaking for the rest of us it really doesn’t.

So why participate in this waste of time called voting? Because what is actually statistically important is the act of voting. While my vote in Utah may be 1/700,000, my act of voting may encourage 3 or 4 other people to vote. All of the sudden that is a significant impact. Those 3 people encourage 3 other people and the ripple effect is real. Plus, there are smaller races, which while still statistically not utility maximizing, the impact is more like 1/20,000

Another reason to vote is simply because it is the right thing to do. There are lots of things we do which we draw mainly moral inspiration and fortitude from. An article I read in the Harvard Political Review put it well:

“There are many actions we consider morally valuable, even when they have little or no consequence. Such actions are intrinsically valuable, or their goodness consists in their being suitably related to a deeper moral ideal or principle we find compelling. Suppose I make a promise to my grandmother that I will visit her grave once every year. It seems that honoring this promise is morally valuable, irrespective of the positive consequences doing so may bring about. It is valuable because promises are simply the sort of thing that it is right to honor”

If we are voting out of a moral imperative than doesn’t that make voting for someone you don’t believe in even more nonsensical? If voting is the right thing to do than voting for the right person logically must go along with it.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter who you vote for. It just matters that you vote. People can say you are throwing away your vote but statistically that’s just not true. Vote for whomever you want and then encourage other people to do the same. That’s how you really make a difference.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

ps. I will be so happy when this election is over!


7 thoughts on “Throw Away Your Vote

  1. I am with you 100%. In my state, Hillary Clinton will get all of the electoral votes regardless of who I vote for. Mathematically, everyone who votes for the loser in their state AND everyone who casts a vote for the winner that is above what is needed for that person to win has “wasted” their vote. So around half the votes cast will be “wasted” regardless, and the voter has zero control over whether his or her vote ends up in the “wasted” pile. If my vote is going in the proverbial garbage can anyway, I’d rather not sell my soul to the devil in the process.

    1. Very well said! I forgot to mention your excellent point about losing votes being “wasted”. I probably make more of a statistically significant impact posting this blog than by voting

  2. Excellent post. I have long said the “every vote counts” argument is nothing but propaganda when it comes to national elections. Locals are a different story, but in the presidential race, liberal votes don’t matter in Texas and conservative votes don’t matter in California. We all know where those electoral votes are headed before anyone casts a ballot.

  3. I would like to thoroughly commend what you have written here. This election has been very frustrating and it seems like voting third-party or not voting at all are the only ethical choices for many. For awhile, I considered first voting for Hillary at first but then made up my mind not to vote at all.

    I know also that you are generally conservative in thinking, so that’s why I also find this independent thinking refreshing. I know many within the Republican party are unhappy with Trump, but my math teacher is Republican and grew up in an entirely conservative family, and he justified supporting Trump basically like this: “Trump is a rude, arrogant jerk, but still, his actual opinions aren’t that bad and I agree with plenty of the things he said, so sure I’ll vote for him. After all, we don’t want Hillary to win, do we?”

    I had more respect for the vocational specialist than anyone else in the school in terms of politics. When she posted something anti-Trump on Facebook, she was demeaned and argued with by the founder of the school, and the conservative security guard later showed her a demeaning photo of Hillary Clinton, both of these textbook conservatives apparently under the belief she was a textbook liberal. But she wasn’t, she supported Bernie Sanders because she followed her convictions and she told me on Facebook even after Sanders endorsed Hillary, she decided to simply vote for the Green Party instead. I remember sticking up for her by showing her a demeaning photo of Trump, and the math teacher then interrogated me about who I thought would make a better President, Hillary or Trump. When I suggested there were other options, he said only that they didn’t have a snowball’s chance to win, so “it’s basically the same as voting for nobody”,

    I honestly think voting for someone you do not know wholeheartedly believe in is worse than voting for nobody. Both my parents and my brother will be voting third-party this year, but you and the vocational specialist are what made me decide to do so, too. If nothing else, it at least serves as a protest vote against the flawed system we have.

    My mother posted a theoretical argument on her Facebook page that I believe sums this up:
    “You can’t vote third party because they have no chance of winning. You’re wasting your vote.”
    “Oh, did you think that your vote alone was going to change the outcome of the election?”
    “Well, no, of course not.”
    “Then vote for whoever the hell you want. It’s a wasted vote to only vote for who can win if everyone else is doing it anyway and your vote doesn’t matter.”

    1. Thank you so much. That means a lot to me for you to say that. I completely agree with you that it is kind of egotistical for people to think their vote matters so much. Give me a break. If Utah can pull off a state voting third party that would be the only good thing out of this election. It would be the one thing to give me hope in humanity. Fingers crossed!

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