Off the Chest.

7 July 2004

Off the Chest is a series of writings I wish to do to discuss some of the things that bother me. As the 4th of July weekend just passed, the ones most prominent in my mind deal with my country, and the topic of patriotism. As this is a presidential election year, the most obvious of those deal with politics.

The United States of America is a democratic republic. A republic is a form of government in which the head of state is not a monarch. The "democratic" portion of the name indicates a society where the supreme power of the government lies with the people. In the United States, voters select the head of state, as well as advocates to represent the interests of the people. This is done through elections. As such not only do we have the right to vote, I believe we have the responsibility to do so as well.

Often times I will hear someone complain that this or that is not right in the government, or that a person who has been elected is an idiot or a crook. My first reaction to these complaints is to ask, "Did you vote?"

If they say no, I generally tell them to shut up. I have absolutely no respect for people who feel they have a right to complain if they did not bother to make their voices heard officially in an election.

I did some recent checks on statistics, at David Leip's Atlas of U.S Presidential Elections, and would like to report them. I'll get back to the 2000 presidential election, that of George W. Bush against Albert Gore, Jr., as there are some odd dynamics there, tied up in the electoral college.

The first step in my research, after passing the 2000 election, takes me back to the William J. Clinton vs Robert Dole election of 1996. Clinton received 49% of the popular vote, and won the election. However, only 49% of those of age to vote, voted. I am not a mathematician, but to me, that means that 24% of those that could vote selected the President of the United States. That doesn't seem very democratic, does it?

Let's go a bit further back. In 1992, Clinton garnered 43% of the popular vote. Fifty-five percent of the people of an age to vote voted. Applying mathematics again, we find that Clinton first became president with 26% of the voting population choosing him. In 1988, George H. W.Bush, on the coattails of President Ronald Reagan, garnered 53% of the popular vote. How many voted? 50%. In other words 26% of the people that could vote chose the leader of the United States. You may remember, this occurred after the fall of the Soviet Union, which left the United States as the strongest country in the world. Still, only 50% of our people could be bothered to vote.

There is something that needs to be added. These statistics indicate the number of people that are of an age to vote. What of those that are registered to vote?

That is truly depressing. The Constitution of the United States was supposed to form a government for the people and by the people. The strongest tool we, as the people, have is to exercise our right to vote. Sure, we can make donations, but all the donations in the world are useless if we do not even bother to act upon our responsibility to vote.

Earlier I mentioned that I would get back to the 2000 election, where George W. Bush became President of the United States of America. He won the election, garnering 50,460,110 votes, or 47.87% of the popular vote. Only 54.5% of those of voting age bothered to vote. That means he won only 26% of the potential voter population.

Albert Gore lost with 51,003,926 or 48.38% of the popular vote. You may be somewhat taken aback by that: Albert Gore lost with more votes? How is this possible?

The United States has a "winner take all" process based on electoral votes. Bush had 271 electoral votes in the Electoral College, whereas Gore had only 266 electoral votes. That seems illogical. Why would the Electoral College work out this way?

So no single state or group of states has overwhelming power. If it were based entirely on population, the more populous states would have so much power that voters in the states of smaller populations would not really be able to participate in the governing of the United States.

There were more than 157 million registered voters in the United States as of the 2000 election. fifteen million were in California, 11 million in New York, 10 million in Texas, 8 million in Florida, 7 million each in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. That is 72 million voters concentrated in eight of the fifty states. To have a majority only 79 million votes are required. If it was straight voting these states would completely dominate the country.

In 2000, California had 54 electoral votes. All of the votes went to Gore. He had 1,293,774 votes more than Bush. Had he had only 2000 more votes than Bush he would have still won the state, and all 54 of its electoral votes.

On the other hand, New Hampshire had only 4 electoral votes. Bush won New Hampshire by a mere 7,211 votes. Had Gore won New Hampshire's 4 electoral votes, he would have won the election. In other words, had he spent just a little more time building support in New Hampshire, he could have easily won the election. A state that had only 902,521 voters of the voting age, could have had as great an effect on the election as Florida with its 11,081,542 potential voters.

Other close states included Oregon (7 electoral votes) going to Gore by 6,765 votes, Wisconsin (11 electoral votes) going to Gore by 5,708 votes, Iowa (7 electoral votes),going to Gore by 4,144 votes, and it will be difficult to forget Florida, the focus of so much controversy, worth 25 electoral votes, going to Bush by only 537 votes, after numerous recounts. That is a slim margin, but not the slimmest. Gore won New Mexico by only 366 votes.

So I ask you again, did you vote? Will you vote the next time? Does it really matter?

To answer the last question, it only matters if you want a say in the government. If not: shut up, this doesn't concern you.

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