Recent vote margins make the news
Vote margins are a concern in every election. It’s not enough to say this or that candidate won. The immediate follow-on question to a political contest is, “by how much?” It’s an interesting thought with which to start the new year as we look ahead to mid-term elections. “By how much will a political race be won or lost?”
My blog on December 20, 2017, pointed out that Shelly Simonds barely won a Virginia delegate seat. At that time she had won by one vote after a recount. Then one vote was reconsidered so the race became a tie between her and David Yancey. As I write this, the remedy is to declare a winner via a vote lottery. Regardless of outcome, the voting margin of this race will be only one.
Vote margins in Oregon influence voters
One of the criticisms Equal Voice Voting faces, by those who put political party concerns before people, is that the winner-takes-all margins would disappear. Consider what would happen in my home state of Oregon, as an example.
Oregon received seven electoral votes in each of the past nine presidential elections. Democrats would have won the races by a one-vote margin if Equal Voice Voting were used in those nine elections. It would be a one vote margin!
Imagine how that sounds to a die-hard Oregon Democrat who currently enjoys a seven-vote winning margin. It sounds like a bit of thievery. I’ve been asked within the chambers of our state capital, why I would promote an idea that erodes that kind of advantage?
As another example, a North Dakota Republican Representative asked me why he should support an idea that would take away his three-vote winning margin? (By the way, North Dakota would typically narrow the Republican winning margin to one vote in three out of four presidential races if Equal Voice Voting were used.)
If races are close, as per votes cast, vote margins should also be close. Currently, only votes cast for a leading candidate are reflected in the final election results. This winner-takes-all approach (used in all states) puts political parties first. People (voting citizens) come in second. All votes should count because all voting citizens matter!
How vote margins matter across the nation
Then there are those (again, favoring political party over people) who claim small vote margins would make the state insignificant in the national race. Imagine, they argue, any state weighing in with vote margins of only one or two votes!
Consider the facts. Trump campaigned several times in Maine in hopes of scratching out a single vote in a usually Democratic-leaning state. His efforts paid off and he came away with a single Maine vote. Hillary had only three when she expected four votes. That became, effectively, a vote margin shift of two votes!
Hillary campaigned in Republican-leaning Nebraska in hopes of doing the reverse. Though Nebraska kept all five of its votes in favor of Trump, Hillary had spent campaign time there. Winning that potential single vote mattered.
Small vote margins matter because they reflect the sentiment of the voters!
The relationship of vote margins to sporting events
Watch any sporting game wherein the point margin is close. Would you consider it a good game? Or would you rather watch a game wherein the winner won by a landslide? In which game are the players more engaged, more caring, trying their hardest to win?
So goes politics. If we continue to endure the winner-takes-all mind-set, we only serve political party advantage—not the people. The winner-takes-all approach disengages those who think their vote does not matter. Voting apathy, due to loss of hope and aspiration, is one of the banes of our democracy.
Voting margins matter! They are especially significant in close races making citizens more engaged. Which game did you say you preferred to watch—the close one or the lopsided contest? Likewise, which voting scenario do you think serves the citizens of your state the best? Which voting scenario would encourage voter engagement and which contributes to voter apathy?
Tell your legislators to make every vote count in our presidential elections. Tell them, too, that every state matters—especially the one in which you live.