As the presidential election of 2020 quickly approaches, many new voters may question the weight of their vote — especially in states with historically consistent opposing viewpoints.
Since American presidential elections are based on the electoral college rather than popular vote, individual votes carry less weight if they do not align with the state’s majority. However, the political alignment of a state should not discourage its voters from voting. The anti-voting mentality must be extinguished, as every vote does in fact matter.
Regardless of the state, it is vital that all American citizens exercise their right to vote at every opportunity. As a foundational value of this country, the principle of voting should be taken seriously as a responsibility to ensure the best leadership for the country. Americans were given the opportunity to have a say in the country's leadership, why waste it? In the 2016 presidential election, only 60.1% of the voting-eligible population cast a vote. That leaves about 93 million American citizens who chose not to cast a vote on election day — an immensely large group that could have seriously impacted the outcome. The choice to vote should be a simple one, and given the current turbulent political climate, every opinion deserves to be equally heard.
“I personally think that [not voting based on contrasting state orientation] is a very stupid reason not to vote, because that’s not using the little voice you have to try and make a difference,” said freshman political science major Gabe Schoenmann. “I think everyone should voice their opinion because they have the opportunity to. Also, say there are enough others like you, turning the other cheek, saying ‘oh, it doesn’t matter, my state always votes the other way,’ you could all collectively change the outcome by casting a vote, but you’ll never know if you don’t vote.”
If voters trap themselves in a reality that assumes the outcome before the vote, the political culture will never progress. Those who feel their vote does not matter must remember that change is possible. Given the 93 million Americans who choose not to vote, an unexpected turnout can swing a state and influence an election. Changing turnout rates drastically influenced the presidential election of 2016, as decreasing numbers in Wisconsin and Ohio acted in Trump’s favor.
Although voting should not be easily written off, the weight of a Democratic vote in a historically Republican state, or vice versa, can understandably overwhelm voters as the majority may seem unchangeable. Freshman entrepreneurship major Nicholas Chang agrees, saying “If you live in a historically red state like Oklahoma, a Democratic vote won’t matter because the state will likely end up red. Since electoral votes solely decide the winner, a vote for the losing party does not contribute to the end result.”
Even if an individual vote contrasts a state’s alignment, candidates and political analysts use votes within local counties to collect data for projections, which can influence future campaigns. The Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses trigger the start of the presidential primaries, and with around two dozen candidates vying for the Democratic nomination alongside a motivated President Trump, the primary election season will hold pave the way for an unexpected election season. Voters can use the primaries to choose the best representation for their group but must be registered under the political party of their choice.
This is the opinion of Riley Hetherington, a freshman communications studies major from San Diego, California. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email firstname.lastname@example.org.