Not Every Vote Is The Same, But Every Vote Is Important

Voters in Los Angeles County during the 2018 midterms ( Mario Tama/ AFP/Getty)

As we get closer to the 2020 Presidential Election that is set to take place on November 3rd, 2020, over 85 million Americans have cast their vote either in person or by mail. Some states, like Texas, have already shattered 2016 turnout records and are set to continue growing those margins as early voting continues. But voters in key states — including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona, Georgia, and Texas — are believed to hold the deciding votes in who will cross the threshold of 270 to earn a majority in the electoral college to claim the Presidency. The question remains, which voters have the most power when it comes to casting ballots?

Based on recent data, the state of Wyoming has the highest power in each vote with each electoral college vote representing just 142,000 people where states like Florida (50th) and California (49th) split roughly 500,000 people amongst each electoral college vote. What this data shows us is that the less dense a state is (or the lower the population), the more power each voter has when casting a ballot. What impact does this have on our election results? At the Presidential and Vice Presidential levels, these states with lower populations tend to vote the same way every four years. States like North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Nebraska often vote for Republicans while states like Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut often vote for Democrats.

At a Congressional level, things get a little more complicated. Depending on how State and Congressional districts are drawn, each district is representing roughly 250,000–300,000 people. In states like Wyoming, this gives the state just one seat in the House of Representatives. States like California get 53 seats in the House of Representatives. With different power behind every vote in every state, does this mean that voters in more populous states shouldn’t vote because they have less of an impact?

The answer to that question can be found when looking at races where your vote has more of an impact. Instead of focusing on races, like the Presidency, where a vote in California may be worth less than a vote from Nebraska, let's take a look at local elections like state representatives, county-level positions, and city-level elections. Looking at the micro-level elections, we actually see that the power our vote holds dramatically improves. Not only that but some of the most important policy changes that can impact your everyday life happen at local and state levels rather than at the federal level. So while you may be turned off from voting in the Presidential election because your vote may not matter, it actually does when it comes to down-ballot races.

By turning up to vote in local elections, you’re potentially casting a ballot to change the amount of property taxes property owners pay within your city or jurisdiction, how much funding programs like the police or fire department get, whether schools can provide programs like free or reduced lunch or after school programs for students to get extra help on difficult subjects, and any other range of issues that may come on the ballot. This year, some of the measures on ballots across states and counties include things like; allowing the legalization of recreational marijuana: providing mental health, drug, and alcohol addiction recovery programs: updating voter access laws to make it easier for people to vote who have previously been disenfranchised. You’re not only voting on policy but also critical positions in your community like judges, mayors, city council members, prosecutors, school board members, governors for your state, and even State House members to represent you in the State Senate and House of Representatives in your state.

When it comes time to vote, it's ok to ask yourself if it’s worth it. And the short answer is yes, your vote matters. Your vote is important, and it is never too late to start making your voice heard to improve the lives of others whether they are directly from your community or thousands of miles away in another state.

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