Wasting Votes

*A bit of tounge-in-cheek election fun*

I walked up to the polls today to cast my vote. I was surrounded by a group people marketing for their respective politicians. An old man wearing a McCain hat, a heavy-set black woman enthusiastically waving an Obama sign. Another half dozen or so had signs with “Say yes to question 2” or “Vote No on question 4”.

The Obama lady cheerily greeted me, quickly handing me some Obama brochures. “Have you decided who you are going to vote for, yet?” she asked.

I’m kinda private about this stuff but I was drunk so I responded: “Cynthia McKinney. She’s running with the Green party, you know. Her wackiness will make great Saturday night live fodder.” SNL is important to me and affects me weekly, thus being more important than any “serious” issue.

She got a strained look on her face. “Won’t you be wasting your vote with a third party choice?” she implored “You should vote for Obama or McCain, one of the two major parties. Would you consider Obama who shares lots of McKinney’s views.”

I thought about this for a moment. She had a good point. Wasting a vote on a third party was, in effect, like voting for the major politician I like least.

“I think you’re right.” I said. “I’ll vote for John McCain, that way my vote is not wasted on a third party.”

“But..” she stammered, surprised at this 180 in philisophical thought. She seemed at a loss for words. I could see her brain ticking away madly. Finally, after several tense moments, I could see an idea spark inside her skull.

“Maryland has gone democrat for the last 60 years. No Republican has ever won.” She seemed pleased at this turn of events.

“That might be true” I countered “but my vote will still be counted.”

She was unfazed. “Not so. Because Maryland will undoubtedly be won by Obama, and since the electoral college will place the winner with all electoral votes from our state, a vote for McCain is a wasted vote! Your vote won’t matter at all!”

She had me.

If my canidate had no chance of winning, then the vote doesn’t matter. I had no reason to be at the polls at all. If Maryland went 49% McCain and 51% Obama, Obama would receive 100% of the electoral votes. My canidate was surely screwed and, thus, my vote wasted. The only way my vote mattered was to vote for Obama. Surely, using the wasted vote philosophy, he was the only one I could reasonably vote for! I was cornered.

I was beginning to think that voting in any uncontested state was a pointless waste of time. I even got out my car keys and started to walk back to my 2003 Honda Element, which screams “outdoorsey” and “hip” too all who see me in it.

Just as I began walking away, though, I overheard the McCain guy say something important to another would-be voter “Did you know that if you vote today you can show your ‘I voted’ sticker at Starbucks and get a free coffee?”

I bustled my way into Engine House number 13 to cast my vote for the next leader of this great nation, the only person who would benefit from my vote, Mr. Barack Obama. It felt a little dirty.

An hour later I was sipping a delightful meledy of South American beans from a paper cup, my faith in American politics renewed.

Comments (6)

  1. Daniel

    Ha, Soma, you are a trip. You are correct though that voting in non-contested states is wasting your vote on the presidential election. It’s actually one of the reasons I never voted when I lived in Maryland. But if you live in a place where the local elections matter(normally urban areas, I didn’t live in them) then your vote can count for something… it can count in helping to put good people on school board or getting someone good on city council… or some state post. Unless those people are running unopposed. 8-/

  2. A. Roenburg

    I’m not sure if my comment belongs on this post or “Why I Don’t Vote”, but I wholeheartedly agree with Daniel. Don’t want to vote for president? Read up on your local school board members instead!

  3. Tim Baer

    Actually, Mr./Ms. Roenburg, this actually started as a comment on the “Why I don’t Vote” post but it grew so long I decided to make my own posty.

    In the interest of full disclosure the above story is completely false. I made it all up. There was only one sign waver, a heavy-set black woman that was enthusiastic, and I did get coffee. In fact, I got three “I voted” stickers in case I needed to turn them for coffee or Chick-Fil-A sandwiches.

    I guess the point, if there is a point, is that democracy is weird.

  4. A. Roenburg

    We Americans U.S.ians live in a republic but want to pretend we live in a pure democracy. That’s why we have a strange, strange system like the electoral college. What were the founding fathers thinking? Weirdos.

    Tongue-in-cheek doesn’t translate well over the internet.

  5. Tim Baer

    I’m thinking our founders set up the electoral college for a couple reasons.

    Perhaps hand counting all those ballots would be hard.
    Some states, like Maine, split electoral college votes. So this isn’t a federal thing, it’s a state thing.
    Perhaps they thought that big states, like New York or Massachusettes wouldn’t be able to control the Federal Government. Giving all votes from one state to the winner would offset a large state’s influence.

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