Voting: How Much Are We Really Heard?

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Voting: How Much Are We Really Heard?

Paige Coffey, Beginning Journalism Student

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With yet another election rolling around the corner, young citizens that will be 18 in April are being encouraged to register to cast their vote. In a country that was founded upon democracy, every citizen has been told that their vote is equivalent to their voice during elections. The need to cast your vote was so crucial during the 2018 midterm election that 113 million people voted, which was the first year for the votes to ever exceed 100 million. But in all reality, how much are our voices really being heard by the government during elections?     

During the 2000 Presidential Election between democrat Al Gore and republican George W. Bush, many people say that the wrong person became president. As history proves, Bush became president due his 271 electoral votes compared to Gore’s 266. In another tight race between democrat Hillary Clinton and republican Donald Trump during the 2016 Presidential Election, it was announced that Donald Trump would become the President of the United States due to how his electoral vote rounded up to 304. Candidates only need 270 electoral votes of the total 538 that are available. While this just seems to be US protocol during elections, it doesn’t quite add up to what they’ve been telling citizens since the beginning of time. Hasn’t the government been telling us that our votes represented our voice? If that’s so, then why were the electoral college’s votes considered over the average citizen’s?   

During the 2000 Presidential Election, Gore won popular vote by 543,895 more votes in comparison to Bush. Yet, Bush was still chosen because of how his electoral vote ranged higher than Gore´s. In the 2016 Presidential Election, Clinton won popular vote with by a 2.09% difference over Trump. Yet again, history repeated itself to name Trump the President of the United States due to how his electoral votes ranged higher than Clinton’s. Popular vote is defined by “the choice expressed through the votes cast by the electorate.”  This means that the votes from average American citizens are represented through the popular vote. The popular vote represents our voice, not the electoral vote. Based on how the US explains that elections are for the purpose of hearing the opinions of the citizens, many former presidents, including Bush and Trump, were incorrectly placed into office for their four year term. The question is, why would electoral votes be taken over the popular vote if it’s not the general public’s opinion?   

The electoral votes are based on which states the candidates win during the campaign process. States with larger populations, such as California, New York and Texas, are viewed as places that need to be claimed during the campaign. If candidates win over these states, then they’ll already have 122 electoral votes, which is already 45% of what they need to win. This could become controversial when the other, more preferred candidate wins over twice as many states without gaining as many numbers. For example, a candidate could win over Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Vermont, but they’d only have 48 electoral votes, which is only 17% of what’s required to win. Even though this candidate could be more preferred by the public, they would probably never come close to winning the election. This isn’t fair. Due to this, elections become more about winning over larger states to have an electoral vote gain. Government officials are no longer picked because of how much the public prefers them. With this considered, one can assume that there´s not as much meaning to elections as there was when elections began in 1789. The public´s voice is no longer heard since the only votes that are considered are electoral votes.

Even though the government will continue to only count the electoral votes over the popular votes during elections, there will always be a way to be make a change in the system.

There will always be a way for the public´s voice to be heard. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights allows the people to voice their opinions, as long as it remains in a peaceful manner. This could include, but is not limited to, sharing posts on social media, publishing an editorial or participating in a peaceful protest. In an unfair situation, the First Amendment offers each person a chance to show what they think should’ve been done. An example of this is when 20 million people gathered in Washington D.C on the day after President Trump’s inauguration to protest his remarks involving women and members of the LGBT+ community in January 2017. While the protest didn’t change the process of elections, it did start a national stigma to how everyone should be treated with respect in terms of gender and sexuality. Whenever our voices aren’t heard from the government in the way that we demand, there will always be another way to make the change that we insist upon. The time is now to make a change.      

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