Your Vote Is No Big Deal

American voters aren’t uninformed. They’re just smart about how they spend their time. On Election day, some one hundred million or so people are going to spend thirty minutes driving to or from a poll booth, then spend two minutes pushing a button or connecting a broken arrow with a line from a pencil (unless they’re poor, in which case the Republicans will probably ensure that they spend two hours waiting in line first).

Now, if you are one of those people, you can be fairly confident that your vote is only going to have a very small impact on the general outcome. Most people know which direction their state is going to swing (the only way that my home state, D.C., will go republican in fall is if some sort of mystery plague that decimates the African-American population suddenly erupts…and even then the whites would probably still swing it Democratic). Even in swing states, the benefit of one vote in five million is probably so small that it’s not even worth the time you spent casting it.

Given our electoral system, our voter turnout is not low. In fact, I’m consistently surprised that anyone votes at all. I can only chalk it up to some sort of flicker of pride in our democratic system. And, assuming someone goes to the polls at all, I think its asking kind of alot of them to spend more than a half-hour analyzing who to actually vote for. Look at the cost/benefit ratio of researching each candidate’s positions in painstaking detail, sorting through the spin, looking deep into your own soul to find out what you believe, and then choosing. That’s like three or four hours of work, right there.

But when you weigh that expenditure of time against the chance that your informed decision will actually make your candidate win, the cost/benefit ratio starts to look bad (not to mention that you end up getting so invested that it sucks even more if he loses).