Lisa Kenney of Eudaemonia, in a very thoughtful post about presidential politics, admitted she hadn’t voted a lot in the past. Which brought the following response from Larramie of Sieze a Daisy:
Your admission, "I think I've only voted in one other Presidential election, which just goes to show how indifferent I've been in the past.," truly stunned me since your vote counts no matter who is running in what year.
For most elections, Larramie’s statement is true. But American presidential elections are a definite exception. While I expect to vote in the 2008 presidential election, I will do so with the firm expectation that my vote will not count, as it hasn’t counted in every presidential election I’ve voted in--and I’ve voted in every one since 1972.
The reason is, of course, the Electoral College. When I cast my ballot for Barrack Obama, I really won’t be voting for him, but for a slate of electors pledged to vote for him in December, when the real presidential election takes place. Had Obama chosen Evan Bayh as his running mate, my vote might have counted for something. But chances are, Indiana will go for McCain, and the electors from Indiana will go for McCain in the real election.
While I’m proud to say that I cast my first presidential vote for George McGovern, my vote didn’t count. Iowa went for Nixon. Four years later, Jimmy Carter won the election, but without my help. Iowa’s electors voted for Gerald Ford. By the time Iowa started voting Democratic, I was in Illinois, which went for Bush in 1988. And I’ve been voting in Indiana since 1992.
It seemed possible that we might change the presidential election process after 2000, when George W. Bush lost in the popular vote to Al Gore, and won the election by a five to four vote in the Supreme Court, which gave Florida’s electors to Bush. But it didn’t happen. For one thing, a Republican Congress wasn’t likely to support a constitutional amendment making a Republican victory more difficult.
One interesting idea to reform the Electoral College is one I believe was proposed by Curtis Gans, which would allot two additional electors from each state to the candidate who wins the popular vote. While it wouldn’t eliminate the Electoral College, it would make the travesty of 2000 a near-impossibility.
I encourage everyone to vote in the coming election. Even if you’re voting for Obama in Indiana or McCain in Illinois. There’s always hope. And then we should push for a constitutional amendment to assure that all of our votes will count in the future.