As warned in Wednesday’s post on Romney and for Thursday’s for Obama, I was only pretending your vote mattered for the sake of making an argument for both of the candidates for president. When it comes to voting for president, it is highly unlikely that your singular vote actually matters. You’ve been fooled into believing that your vote is important, that you well help decide the outcome of the election. Polling showing that it’s a tight race between Obama and Romney have contributed to this misunderstanding.

That’s because most people seem to have forgotten about the electoral college system. See, when our founding fathers were hammering out the Constitution, many of them wanted Congress to choose a leader for the country. Voters still picked Congress, but Congress picked the President. This is partially because the founding fathers believed the common voter was too stupid. They’re right. The electoral college system was established to help alleviate some of those concerns, as well as give some additional power to states with smaller populations.

The electoral college system essentially makes each state a winner take all state. So if Romney gets more than 50% of Florida, he gets all the Florida votes. This can lead to an election where the winner doesn’t get the popular vote, but does get the electoral vote al la Bush – Gore. This winner-take-all system means it doesn’t matter if the winner gets 50% of the popular vote or 100%, they still get the same electoral votes. So if you live in a state the votes heavily to one side or another, your vote simply doesn’t matter.

There are only a few states where your vote could matter. States like Florida, Virginia and Colorado are essentially tossups. Battleground states have a chance of mattering, but even that is a stretch. Take North Carolina in 2008. Obama won by 14,177 votes (Romney is likely to take the state back to red). That means Obama got all of the electoral votes. Given that Obama got 2,142,651 votes and McCain got 2,128,474 and Obama only needs to win by 1, the 2,128,475th person to cast their vote for Obama was the only voter in the state of North Carolina to matter. With just a few battleground states there are probably less than 10 votes in the country that truly matter.

Electing a president by popular vote would make individual votes more valuable. In that sense every vote counts (though you could apply the logic above to a national popular vote). The popular vote system is favored by many and number of states have designed legislation to get around the electoral college and use a popular vote. But the sytem won’t work until more states sign on.

Does this mean you shouldn’t vote? No. Voting is fun and part of the honor of being an American. Just don’t think your specific vote for Romney or Obama will make a difference. And just because your vote for President doesn’t matter does not mean your vote for local, state, and Congressional officials does not.

Read more: How the Electoral College Works

categories: government