When people don’t vote, that bothers me.

September 20, 2004, 1:05 AM

It’s amazing how so many people have internalized the notion that their vote doesn’t matter, and thus why bother voting. It really irks me, too. And more amazing is that this is after the election of 2000, where, in order to determine who would be the President of the United States, the de facto leader of the free world, people in Florida were carefully scrutinizing thousands of individual ballots to get an accurate count of the votes in a very close election.

And it’s amazing the excuses people give. My favorite one was when someone said that they don’t vote because of the electoral college system. And in probing further, it turned out that the actual reason for not voting was not the electoral college itself, but more of a lack of understanding of how it works.

For those of you who don’t know, the electoral college system, which we use for electing the President works like this. The people (you and I, for instance) vote for a slate of electors at the voting booth. These electors have committed to voting for the presidential and vice presidential candidates that they are named with. So you’re not voting directly for John Kerry or George Bush. You’re voting for John Doe, Jane Doe, Jim Doe, and Joe Doe, who will cast their electoral votes for their candidate, should their slate of electors win the vote of the state. Thus the winner-takes-all method of giving electoral votes. Then the winning set of electors casts their electoral votes some time after the general election. That makes it official who’s president, and the Vice President then officially counts the electoral votes before the Senate, who officially announces the winner of the election.

The bottom line is that while it is a rather strange way to elect a president, with the rationale for its existence greatly outdated, it is the system. And even if it’s technically 51 small elections (don’t forget Washington DC and its three electoral votes) and not one giant one, as we learned in 2000, every vote is still important, as 500-some odd votes separated George Bush from Al Gore in Florida, and the electoral votes in the balance were enough to tip the election to whoever won Florida.

And with another election coming up that is predicted to be very close, perhaps even closer than the 2000 election, don’t you think you ought to vote?

Web site: An "Electoral College Calculator" site. Figure out who will be President!

Song: No song, but another Electoral College Calculator, this one from the National Archives.

Quote: I always say that saying "Your right to vote" isn't going far enough. Not only is it your right to vote, but it is also your obligation and your duty as a citizen to vote. And remember, if you didn't vote, I don't want to hear what you think about how the government is being run, or how high your taxes are.

Categories: National politics