April 26, 2022

The Importance Of A Single Presidential Vote

It's fashionable these days to downplay the importance of each American citizen's vote in presidential elections. The main rationale for this position is that the Electoral College renders the ballots of many individual voters useless in certain states. This is at least partly true. For example, Massachusetts voters who cast a presidential ballot for a Republican candidate are swamped by their Democratic-voting compatriots. Unless a Massachusetts voter did this in 1980 or 1984 (when Ronald Reagan won the state), there was no chance their vote would deliver the The Bay State's electoral votes to a Republican. 

And yet, as imperfect as the Electoral College system is, it has mostly delivered the correct result. Our founders set up the system to prevent a 'mobocracy' and to insure a regional balance in selecting our Chief Executive. And, despite all of the criticism, each individual vote still does matter—even in the current system.

Let's take a look at the 2020 presidential election. Joe Biden handily won the popular vote by piling up big margins in heavily blue states like New York and California. However, the shift of a few thousand votes in three key states would have produced a far different result. In Georgia, for example,—President Biden won by a scant 11,779 votes out of about five million. In Arizona, Biden won by just 10,457 out of over three million votes cast. In Wisconsin, Trump lost by just 20,682 votes out of about 3.5 million. So, a switch by just 42,918 individual voters in these states (out of over 154.6 million total votes cast) would have left the race in a flat-footed tie at 269 electoral votes each—throwing the decision to House of Representatives. That's a change among only 0.00028% of total voters nationwide.

While an individual voter's choice may seem to get lost in the shuffle, in fact, it can still tip the balance—even in presidential contests. Quite literally, every vote matters.