The next Presidential election is coming up in November of 2020, and in this pivotal time in history we cannot afford for individuals to become apathetic to our democratic processes.
Voting does matter and make a difference, whether it’s a presidential election or not, because this is what you will be voting for:
- The next President. You want a president for the next four years who will support your values and work on the issues that you care about
- Congressional elections determine who represents your state in Congress. They also decide which political party—Democratic or Republican—will hold a majority in each chamber of Congress for the next two years.
- State and local elections can take place in any year, at various times throughout the year. There can be statewide elections for governor or state legislature. A city may elect its mayor. There may be races for judges and local officials. Ballot initiatives may be up for a vote. (https://www.usa.gov/midterm-state-and-local-elections)
- By voting in these elections, by extension you are also voting for the issues you want faced, where the money will be spent, what laws will be passed, and the values that you want upheld.
Let the Stats Speak…
- Around 138 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election. From Business Insider.
- However, those 138 million Americans only make up 58.1% of our voting-eligible population (those American citizens over 18). From United States Elections Project.
- While these numbers seem high, our voter percentage is not higher than the 2008 (61.6%) or 2012 (58.6%) election turnout. From United States Elections Project.
According to an NPR article , it’s not just presidential elections that can be affected by low voter turnout. Despite a massive turnout in the 2018 midterm election, voting in midterm races is traditionally low. The midterm elections in 2014, for example, saw the lowest voter participation in more than 70 years.
But a single vote can make a big difference. In fact, there have been more than a dozen races decided by a single vote or ending in a tie over the last 20 years.
Here’s a look back at some of those and some more of the closest races in U.S. history:
2018: The Democratic primary for Baltimore County executive in July was decided by just 17 votes.
2017: A Virginia House of Delegates race ended in a tie out of more than 23,000 votes cast. The tie was broken by pulling a name, placed in a film canister, out of a bowl. Republican David Yancey was declared the winner. The result was heightened by the fact that the win gave Republicans control of the state House by a single seat.
2016: A Vermont state Senate Democratic primary was determined by a single vote out of more than 7,400 cast.
2008: In the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Al Franken defeated Republican Norm Coleman by just 312 votes out of almost 2.9 million votes cast. Franken’s win gave Democrats a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate.
2004: A special election in Radford, Va., for commonwealth’s attorney was decided by one vote.
1994: A Wyoming state House seat ended in a 1,941-to-1,941 tie on Election Day. The tie was broken, live on NBC’s Today show, with the secretary of state pulling a pingpong ball with the winning candidate’s name on it out of the governor’s hat. The winner went on to become speaker of the state House.
1991: A Virginia state House seat was determined by one vote out of almost 13,000 cast.
In the 19th century, there were even a few U.S. House races that were determined by a single vote:
1882: VA-1: Robert M. Mayo defeated Democrat George T. Garrison, 10,505 to 10,504.
1854: IL-7: Democrat James C. Allen beat Republican William B. Archer, 8,452 to 8,451.
1847: IN-6: Whig candidate George G. Dunn defeated Democratic candidate David M. Dobson, 7,455 to 7,454.
1847: VA-3: Whig Thomas S.Flournoy won 650 to 649
1829: KY-2: Jackson Democrat Nicholas Coleman defeated National Republican Adam Beatty, 2,520 to 2,519.
Of course, none of those is to mention the 537-vote margin that George W. Bush won Florida by in the 2000 presidential election — out of almost 6 million votes cast — or Donald Trump winning the presidency despite losing the popular vote by almost 3 million votes — all because he eked out just enough — 70,000 votes out of 12 million in three states — to win the Electoral College.
The Largest Group of Voters:
This is the first year that individuals that fall into the demographic known as “Generation Z” (being born from mid-1990s through early-2010’s) are voting in the primary election! When combined with “Millenials” (individuals born between early-1980s and mid-1990s), they comprise the largest voting population in the US. That makes them powerful forces to create positive social change with their voting practices.
Here’s the catch: while they comprise the largest voting population, the percentage of those age ranges that vote when compared to the total population of that age range is strikingly low.
- While young people make up a large portion the voting-eligible population, they’re much less likely than those who are older to get out and vote. In 2016, only 19% of people aged 18-29 cast their ballot in the presidential election; at 49%, 45-64-year-olds accounted for the largest electorate last year.
- Many young people cite feeling as though their vote doesn’t count as their reason for not participating in elections. Millennials reported feeling especially disillusioned by both presidential candidates before the election in 2016, and many chose to sit out altogether as a result.In an America divided perhaps more than ever, every vote counts, especially those from one of the country’s largest voting groups. President Barack Obama’s election in 2008 is an example of this theory in motion, as his popularity with youth voters was one of the key elements of his campaign, giving him a large margin over competitors in a number of strategic states.The stats above also show that in non-presidential elections, a few votes have historically been known to literally sway results.
- Building a relationship with the political process as early as possible is key to making voting a lifelong habit: you may already be familiar with the phrase, “Vote early, vote often.” If you’re historically a repeat voter, you’re much less likely to skip a trip to the polls in the future. This sort of habit-forming participation is key to driving policy and electing leaders who represent the needs of voters of all ages.