This November, millions of Americans will cast their ballots on the biggest election day of the year, but I won't be among them. I have been disenfranchised by an archaic voting system, and refuse to endorse the process with my participation. They say that voting is the only way to bring change, but when do I get to vote on voting? Our current institution is embarrassing, and the people in power have no reason to bite the hand that feeds by reforming the system that put them in their lofty positions.
By far the most egregious flaw in the United States voting system is the electoral college, a relic from over 200 years ago when the fastest way to send information was by horse. The fact that we now have fiber-optic communication and are using a system that predates the telegraph is just ridiculous. A major factor in the creation of the electoral college was the fear of a duped electorate. The idea was that the ignorant masses could be saved from a poor choice by a more informed electoral college. Now that we live in the INFORMATION age, the notion of someone unqualified being elected president by an uninformed backwoods majority is utterly ludicrous.
The other major reason for the electoral college was protection of the “small states.” Electoral votes are not distributed evenly by population, because each state gets one for each member of congress (and D.C. gets three). Because each state has two senators in addition to its purely population-based congressional representation, states with fewer people have more electoral votes than their population would suggest. This also means that big states get proportionally fewer votes, creating some truly shocking iniquities in the value of a vote. Mathematically, a vote cast in Wyoming is worth more than THREE TIMES as many electoral votes as my vote in New York. What!?
Of course, that's assuming that my vote cast in New York is worth anything at all, which it isn't thanks to the electoral college. Only Maine and Nebraska don't give all of their electoral votes to the most popular candidate in their state, which means that for states with a clear political majority, voting is is essentially irrelevant for an individual. I could vote for Mitt Romney a thousand times, and still guarantee you that Barack Obama will carry New York (not that I'd ever want to vote for Romney even once). But my would-be vote for Obama is just as meaningless, since he'll be fine without it.
Not only does the “winner-take-all” system essentially disenfranchise voters from partisan states, it also completely subverts the notion of protecting the interests of small states. The reasoning behind making small states proportionally more valuable is that candidates would have to campaign in these areas and appeal to their people in order to get all the electoral votes they needed. However, the current system shifts the focus of each campaign onto the high population states that will be a close race. Even though a Wyomingite's vote is worth three times as much as a Floridian's, the election in Wyoming was decided decades ago, so candidates will spend no time campaigning there in the next couple of months.
By far the most terrifying aspect of “winner-take-all” is that you would theoretically need just 22% of the popular vote to get elected. Yes I said 22% (see the video below for the extended how-to guide). Simply by collecting a minimal majority in all of the smaller, overvalued states, a candidate could reach 270 electoral votes despite almost 4/5 people having preferred someone else. That is obviously extremely unlikely, but the fact that it is even possible sheds light on how preposterous the electoral college system truly is.
The electoral college system fails on every possible front, but the topper to the whole disaster is that it would take a constitutional amendment to get rid of it. That will almost certainly never happen, and here's why: An amendment must be passed by 3/4 states to become law. In the 2012 election, 13 states will get either three or four electoral votes. As long as the 13 states that get either three or four electoral votes (aka the most vastly overrepresented) vote against amending the electoral college, there won't be a 3/4 majority. Something radical has to be done to abolish this antiquated system that not only allows for minority rule, but also largely disenfranchises the vast majority of the country who live in predominantly red or blue states. The number of “wasted votes” resulting from the electoral college is way too high, and there is simply no benefit to having it around anymore now that the public is so much more readily informed.
But my reasons for not voting go beyond the abominable electoral college. Even if it were dismantled today and the 2012 presidential election was to be run like any other in America, I still wouldn't vote. This is because elections in the U.S. use a “First Past the Post” system to declare a winner, which is inferior in every regard to a multitude of other options including the Alternative Vote and Mixed-Member Proportional. I'll discuss all of these various voting systems in parts 2 and 3 of “Why I'm not Voting.”
This article is the first in a three-part series.