Editorial: Your vote matters — even in bluest state
Editorials November 5, 2012 8:42PM
Obama Campaigns In Midwest Swing States One Day Before Election Day
Updated: December 7, 2012 6:11AM
Too many Americans are planning to sit this election out.
Too many eligible Americans, an estimated 90 million, won’t have voted when the polls close Tuesday evening.
Some people think they’re too busy. Some aren’t interested. But many simply have the wrong idea about elections.
“Why vote?” they say. “My vote won’t make a difference.”
It’s a complaint that sounds particularly legit in a blue state such as Illinois, where President Barack Obama is sure to beat Gov. Mitt Romney anyway.
But voting, as we all know, is not about any one voter playing kingmaker, but about all voters getting in their two cents. It’s about taking a snapshot of where we as a nation stand and where we think we should be. It’s a chance for everyday Americans to step in and right the ship, to nudge the country along the proper path.
And in a tight presidential election such as this one, in which the popular vote conceivably could go to one candidate while the Electoral College vote could go to the other — as happened in Gore vs. Bush in 2000 — each and every vote in even the bluest or reddest of states takes on extra symbolic heft.
Unfortunately, the election process encourages the notion that voting is pointless. Because presidential campaigns are decided in the Electoral College, in which most states’ electoral votes go to the winner of the state’s popular vote, national political campaigns have terrific incentive to ignore most voters, focusing on the handful of up-in-the-air “swing states” such as Ohio.
Adding to voter discouragement in Illinois, our state Legislature this year redrew congressional and state legislative districts to create numerous “safe” seats and limit the real battles to a relatively few competitive jurisdictions.
If you live in a safe district — and most of us do — the state Legislature pretty much decided who’s going to represent you — or which party — in Washington and Springfield the day they drew the map. This is the norm across the country.
Those are two big reasons, by the way, that the United States trails Canada, Great Britain and many other democracies in voter turnout.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Imagine an Election Day when all eligible voters show up at the polls. What would we see, besides frazzled poll workers?
We would see an end to strategies to tilt the election against Americans’ wishes by getting a larger share of one side or the other to the polls. We would see a reduction in the influence of money, which is pouring into races at unprecedented levels. We would see elected officials become more responsive to their constituents.
In one recent poll, 85 percent of those who didn’t plan to vote said they would do so only if their vote would make a difference.
But it would. A little bit now. A lot in the long run.
So enough with the cynicism.
And if you don’t vote today, you can’t complain tomorrow.