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.

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