Category Archives: elections

Does Your Vote Matter?

As we prepare to turn the calendars to November, the question of whether your vote matters raises its head. If we ignore all the rhetoric, the only sensible answer to that question is no, your vote does not matter.

Think about it. The only way in which your vote might possibly matter is if everyone else were completely deadlocked, so that your vote turns a tie vote into a one-vote win or a one-vote win into a tie. Now, say that you were voting in an election where there were three voters. The other two voters would deadlock 50% of the time, so your vote would matter 50% of the time. If there were five voters, the other four would deadlock 37.5% of the time, so your vote would matter 37.5% of the time. The percentage of the time in which your vote matters goes down as the number of voters increases. Once you get to 10,001 voters, your vote only matters about 1 time in 125; you could vote all your life and never have an election decided by your vote.

But, in many elections nowadays, the results are decided by the votes of many tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or in some cases millions, of voters. The odds of your vote actually mattering to elect one candidate or another is essentially zero. So, your vote doesn’t matter.

Just because your vote doesn’t matter doesn’t mean that your vote is meaningless; it can actually be quite liberating to realize that your vote doesn’t matter, and it can allow you to find your own meaning in voting. One way to find your own meaning is to vote for the candidate that you really like, no matter what party they represent, instead of, say, voting for the same mainstream candidate that you always vote for but don’t really like. Your vote won’t mean much, but it won’t mean much anyway. But you have remained true to yourself and what you really believe in, and you’ve voted the way you really wanted to vote.

Are America's Best Days Behind It?

A few days ago I was reading a blog entry from CNN’s Jack Cafferty with this title. As one commenter noted, the fact that the question is even being asked suggests what the answer is, and in fact the majority of commenters answered in the affirmative, noting dysfunctional government, spiralling debt, the decline of the middle class, massive expenditures on dead-end wars, politicians who have sold out to the highest bidder, a declining educational system, the loss of manufacturing jobs, citizens wasting all their time on cellphones and social media and not being educated about the issues, and all kinds of other woes that are afflicting the United States.

Throughout all of history, just about every state that has risen to the top of the heap has eventually fallen. The Egyptians, the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Franks, the Mongols, and lots of other nations have fallen. Sure, there are a few exceptions. Turkey is the (much reduced) remnant of what used to be the Ottoman Empire, China has lasted for a few millennia, and Japan has been around for a while too, but, nonetheless, these nations have seen ups and downs, revolutions, invasions, and the like. So, it seems reasonable to assume that, sooner or later, the United States will fall or at least have some “down” times. This doesn’t mean that this is going to happen imminently, but it doesn’t mean it won’t, either.

When the United States was created over 200 years ago, it was, in part, an interesting experiment. Back then, most people felt that people were best governed by a small elite group of people who had been groomed for the role since youth and would be well prepared to lead. The United States decided to do things differently, by having the people choose who would lead them.

Back then, communication and transportation were incredibly slow, and it was only practical for people to go to elect their leaders every couple of years or so. Two hundred years later, we are all in instantaneous communication with each other, so going to the polls every two or four years seems positively slow by comparison.

Just like systems of government based on the rule of an elite aristocracy have, for the most part, either disappeared or evolved into democratic governments, it seems likely that democratic governments will eventually evolve into something better. Two characteristics of a better government would be:

  • One in which citizens are constantly able to voice their opinions in a meaningful way, not just once every four years
  • One in which all parties are able to reach consensus, not like today where 51% can enforce their will on the other 49%

Will the stalemate in Washington result in new and improved forms of government involving? I doubt it. However, I suspect it will happen eventually, and this may be the first step.

Vote Compass Redux, and the Plight of the Liberal Party

About a month ago I wrote a post about, in part, CBC’s Vote Compass.  This is kind of old news now, but in light of how the election campaign has been going the past few weeks, I wanted to discuss it again.

As you’ll recall, I had discussed the scenario that Vote Compass would indicate that two people with diametrically opposite views on everything would both be closest to the Liberal party.  I assume that the algorithm that the site uses goes something along the lines of “if half of your answers are right-wing and half of your answers are left-wing, then you’d land right in the centre”.  In other words, some sort of scoring the answers and averaging them out.

Is that really the way that people think when they vote?  When you go to the polls tomorrow to vote, will you be thinking “Well, Party X is a little too left-wing for me on this issue and a little too right-wing for me on that issue, so if you put the two together, they should be the right fit for me”?  I would imagine not, for the most part.  I would imagine that you would look for the party whose stance best agrees with yours on whatever issues you find important.

To give an example, imagine that there are two parties, Party X and Party Y, and four issues, Issue A, Issue B, Issue C, and Issue D.  Say that Party X is a somewhat too left-wing for your tastes on Issue A and Issue B, and somewhat too right-wing on Issue C and Issue D, and that Party Y is a good match for your tastes on Issue B and Issue C, but is nowhere near your beliefs on Issue A and Issue D.   I would suggest that most people would vote for Party Y, with whom they agree on two of the issues, rather than Party X, with whom they don’t agree on anything.

Similarly, people who answered “Strongly Agree” or “Strongly Disagree” to every question on Vote Compass would be more likely to vote for whichever party agreed with their stance on the most issues (probably either the party of the right, the Conservatives, or the party of the left, the NDP) rather than averaging their answers out and voting for the party of the middle, the Liberals.

This brings me to something else that’s come up over the past few weeks.  Opinion surveys now indicate that the Liberals have been significantly overtaken by the NDP.  While there are many explanations, I would suggest that one explanation for this is that more and more people are finding that they agree with specific issues in the Conservative or the NDP platforms; while the Liberal platform may provide close matches to their beliefs, it just isn’t as close as the other parties.  What do the Liberals stand for, anyway?  It certainly seems that, over the past little while anyway, the Liberals have become less and less principled and instead have just stood for whatever centrist mush will get them votes.  I think that more and more people are noticing this, and, as already discussed, people aren’t going to vote based on averaging all of their opinions, it means that the Liberals are going to get fewer and fewer votes.