Thursday, August 30, 2012

Kentuckians: Your Vote Is Already Symbolic

This November, a lot of people will vote for a candidate they don't really support. Some will do it because they buy into one party's lesser of two evils narrative in which a win for the opposing party means apocalyptic changes to the American way of life--40 days of darkness, dogs and cats living together, you know the drill. Others will vote either Democrat or Republican because they see a vote for a third party candidate as a meaningless symbolic gesture since third party candidates have no chance of ever winning an election in the current political climate.

The big problem with the mindset that a symbolic vote is a wasted vote is that in most states, your vote is already symbolic barring a major swing in voting patterns. If you don't believe me, check out the electoral vote map tool at http://www.270towin.com. Since I live in Kentucky, I'll use it as an example.

To begin my little experiment, I'm going to award states to a party if that party has won the state in the last five elections, which gives us a map where the Democratic party is ahead 242 votes to the GOP's 102. Things are not looking good for Romney, so let's try to help him out by awarding any state that has been red in three of the last five elections to the Republicans UNLESS that state went to Obama in 2008. Kentucky stays undecided even though it meets the criteria because I'm trying to set up a situation in which my vote matters. After doing that, Obama is still at 242, but Romney is in slightly better shape with 181 electoral votes. If Obama wins Florida, Romney can't win, so let's go ahead and turn it red.

Now we've got 10 states left in play: Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hapshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. None of these states is big enough to give Obama the win on its own, so since Romney's still behind 41 electoral votes, let's see if we can even up the score. Most of the remaining states are fairly evenly split or tend to vote Democrat, but there are 3 states that went to Obama in 2008 where a GOP victory is the norm (at least back to 1972--the earliest election shown on the site): Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia. We'll let them plead temporary insanity for 2008 and give them to Romney as well, bringing him up to 240 votes.

Now that things are reasonably close, let's turn any state that the Democrats have won in 4 out of the last 5 elections blue. That brings Obama up to 257 electoral votes.That means if he wins Ohio, he wins the election, and my vote in Kentucky doesn't matter. Other than Kentucky (8 electoral votes) and Ohio (18 electoral votes), there are two other states remaining on the map: Colorado (9 votes) and Nevada (6 votes). With only 240 votes, Romney can't win without Ohio, so let's give him a fighting chance and assume all the voter suppression tricks they're playing there work out in the GOP's favor.

That puts us in a dead heat with Obama at 257 votes and Romney at 258. For either candidate to win, he'll need to win 2 out of 3 states. If Colorado and Nevada go to the same party (as they have in the past 3 elections), my vote once again doesn't matter. If they split, Kentucky's electoral votes will decide the race, so if the race in Kentucky is extremely close (unlikely, since Kentucky has gone to the GOP in 7 of the past 10 elections), my individual vote for one of the two major party candidates might determine who wins the presidency.

Long story short: Unless you live in Florida or Ohio, your vote is probably symbolic anyway, so why not cast your symbolic vote for someone you can actually believe in. It's not going to allow them to win, but if enough people do it, it will send a clear message that you're tired of choosing between the same two bad options every 4 years. If enough people send that message, it might actually be heard.


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