As you’re probably aware by now, Donald Trump is set to become president despite receiving several million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. This is the unfortunate result of the Electoral College, which has now thwarted the will of the majority of voters twice in the 21st century. All of this may have you asking: Did my vote count?
Insofar as the presidential contest is concerned, probably not, but this depends largely on where you voted.this election. Although Clinton received 2.8 million more votes nationwide than Trump, it was roughly 80,000 votes spread across three states — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan — that delivered him the presidency, thanks to the Electoral College. If you live in one of those states, it’s fair to say that your vote “counted” in determining the next president. If you live in, say, California or New York, it’s hard to argue that your vote for president counted for much.
This may be depressing, but it is true: America doesn’t elect presidents democratically. Trump is the second Republican in a row to win the presidency by receiving fewer votes than his opponent, which is the precise opposite of democracy. The fact of the matter is that a select number of voters in a handful of swing states — not the entire American voting electorate — choose the president.
That said, Americans voted on a lot more than just the presidency in November. There were also Senate and gubernatorial races, as well as state legislative and judicial elections. There were ballot initiatives, city council races, elections for school boards, and many other questions concerning state and local government on the ballot as well. Unlike the presidency, the outcome of most of those races was determined democratically, and a lot of them were super, super close.
In Wisconsin, the Democrats’ minority leader in the state Senate won reelection by 61 votes. Residents of a Snohomish, Washington, passed a measure to drastically change the structure of their city’s government by just nine votes. Meanwhile, 19 voters in Sonoma, California, cast the tie-breaking votes on a measure that banned the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.
Stuff like this might seem like small potatoes, especially when compared with the presidency, but the impact of state and local elections is far greater than many Americans realize, as they directly affect people’s lives in a way that a change in the presidency often doesn’t. The question of leaf blowers in Sonoma may not sound very important, but it was incredibly contentious in the city, and it could very easily end up affecting the residents’ quality of life in a way that the incoming president will not.
So yes, your vote almost certainly counted for something. Just not, in all likelihood, the presidency.