Protection or Deterrent Over the Right to Vote?
Oct. 3, 2012- President Obama and Governor Romney at their first presidential debate
at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Voice of America.
For this election the influence of the female, Latin, African-American, and young voters helped Obama gain the edge over Governor Romney to ensure that President Obama was re-elected for 2012. President Obama not only won the electoral vote but also the popular vote, according to this Politico article. But among voters, particularly college students, how many of us felt that our vote truly counted in this election?
I spoke with a number of BU students who expressed some concern regarding the influence of the electoral college, and whether the system has deterred people from believing their vote really counted during this presidential election. For those out-of-state college students who attend BU there were a few extra steps that had to be taken to ensure they were eligible to vote on Election Day 2012. These students could either take an absentee ballot or register to vote in the state of Massachusetts. I for one decided to register to vote in Massachusetts. My reasoning behind this decision was that, since I wanted to vote for Obama, I felt my vote would count more in a blue state, Mass., as opposed to my home state, Louisiana, which is mainly Republican. This mentality of mine was shaped from the process of the electoral college. A state only needs slightly more than 50 percent of its population to vote for a candidate in order for the electors to choose that candidate. Since Louisiana is a projected red state, more than 50 percent of the population was estimated to vote for Governor Romney; therefore my vote for President Obama wouldn't make much of a difference.
For Branden Spaulding, a senior at BU who is from New York, the decision of whether or not he wanted to register in the state of MA did not have to do with his state's political party affiliation. However, Spaulding said he debated on whether or not he wanted to vote for this presidential election. He was discouraged to register to vote in MA or take an absentee ballot because he believed his vote would not matter due to the electoral college.
"I sent in the form to register to vote in the state of Massachusetts on the last day possible," said Spaulding. "Ultimately, the reason why I decided to vote was just for the experience," he added.
Sara Preston, a senior at BU from New York, also felt that her vote did not count due to the electoral college. "I didn't feel my vote mattered because I was voting for Obama and NY was blue already. Then in terms of Senate, to be honest, I didn't really know either of them well enough to make a decision," she said. Preston said she never really considered registering to vote in the state of MA, but did deliberate on whether to take an absentee ballot. "I'm not embarrassed by my choice not to vote. I think that other people may find it shameful, but I don't believe my decision affected the outcome of the election," said Preston.
Watch this youtube video (below) for a visual explanation of how the electoral college works.
In contrast, Vain Lang, another senior at BU from Colorado, felt it was very important to vote in this election which is why he chose to submit an absentee ballot. "There were a lot of topics that I wanted my voice to be heard on. I mean, even if it is for show in a way because of the electoral college I don't care. I like knowing that I participated in a democratic-like system and weighed my voice," he added. "I just cared too strongly about certain issues not to vote. Maybe it's all just a facade but I'd like to believe that in some way my vote does count towards something, even if it as simple as just upholding the tradition of going to the voting station and casting my choice," said Lang.
Perhaps you do or don't identify with the views of Lang, Preston, and Spaulding, but the question that still remains is how much does our vote count when we have an electoral college in place? Perhaps you are begining to wonder why it is that the electoral college was even created?
According to this NY Times article, the electoral college is a part of the constitution and was created by America's founding fathers. To put it simply, the founding fathers felt the majority of Americans were not well-educated enough to make such an important decision over who would be the next leader of the states. They wanted to also wanted to try and distribute the vote appropriately based on population. This allows us to understand how the possibility of a president winning the popular vote but not the electoral college vote is possible. This has occurred a few times in U.S. history, with the latest being the presidential race in 2000 against Al Gore and President George W. Bush, according to the NY Times article.
In 1970 there was a consideration of abolishing the electoral college, however, the effort was thwarted from Senators in small states who feared their weight in the election would diminish, according this NY Times article.
Here is another video that explains the electoral college in a somewhat more critical view than the previous video I posted.
Who are the electors? Learn more about how the political parties nominate electoral college electors by reading this article.
Here is a great interactive map of U.S. states and how they sided with the candidates during the 2012 presidential election. You can event click on your specific state for additional details.