If The Electoral College Chooses The President, Why Vote? It's More Than A Privilege
I live in New York. The last time that my state was won by anything other than a Democrat, or in less than a double digit margin, was before I was born. Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by a margin of 63-35. Aside from visiting for the Al Smith dinner, even two New Yorkers like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are unlikely to spend a lot of time in the Empire State, considering that the only poll taken in October puts Clinton at a 21-point lead in New York. So, why should I vote?
There are literally millions of people (about 6 million in 2012) who can handle New York's decision on the presidency for me, and the chances of mine being the one vote that sways the state are even closer to impossible than they are in close states like New Hampshire.
In many states, even if the presidential result is close to preordained, there are still important down-ballot races that could massively affect the direction of our country. Missouri is highly likely to go Republican, and Illinois will almost certainly go Democrat, but both have tight U.S. Senate races between Republican incumbents and tough Democratic challengers. California has little chance of voting for Trump, and, because of a relatively new primary system, literally zero chance of electing a Republican senator. But the state still has a real choice coming up as two Democrats face off in the general election. And of course, the ins and outs of congressional districts can put you in a competitive House race even if your state as a whole is solidly one color.
But that still doesn't help me in New York. Sen. Chuck Schumer is up for reelection, and the same poll that found Clinton crushing Trump finds him beating his Republican challenger by an even more absurd 69-23. My Congressional district in Brooklyn is so lopsided that the Republicans didn't even put forward a candidate to contest the seat, and even my state senator is running unopposed as well.
And yet, I'm still planning to vote. There's the old argument about "duty," that people fought and died for my right of all Americans to determine their own fates, and it would be insulting to squander that. That's very true. There's also the collective action problem — if everyone decided not to vote, the certain election outcomes we might expect probably wouldn't happen. It would take just about 2 million New York Democrats staying home to give Trump the state's 29 electoral votes to Trump.
But honestly, to me, voting never really made as much sense as a duty or an obligation. Because to me, voting is something even crazier and more precious than that. I know that whoever the next president is, he or she will affect the lives not only of 320 million Americans, but likely most of the 7.4 billion people in the world. And for some strange reason, people are asking me to help decide that. That's powerful.
It doesn't matter if I'm one of 6 million in a blue state. Even that much is a lot of power to hold.