For Your Electoral Edification

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With the election a mere week away and the presidential candidates making their final appeals to voters in swing states tirelessly this week, it seems that Columbia political science professors have been all but missing out on the action.  That is of course, until now. 

According to the popular electoral projections website fivethirtyeight.com, founded in March by baseball sabermetrics whiz Nate Silver, a calculation of the odds of your vote actually deciding the outcome of the upcoming election in the contested states of New Mexico, New Hampshire, Virginia or Colorado yielded a whopping 1 in 10,000,000 chance. 

Five Thirty Eight (the grand total of electors in the American electoral college) gleaned this information from the recent and ever-so-sleek projection of none other than Silver’s good friend, Columbia professor Andrew Gelman, author of Red State, Blue State

Bwog invites you to look at Gelman’s nifty electoral regression and chuckle at how meaningless your vote actually might prove to be this year.

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  1. This  

    is a very silly thing to advertise, BWOG. Focusing on one person's impact in this way is not only meaningless, but it misses the point. Voting is the ultimate form of coalition building, and in that sense one person can do a great deal.

    Get out and vote, not because your vote itself will change the election, but because this is the only real chance one has to directly interact with their greater community and national community.

  2. Anonymous  

    OMG What Election day happened! And I missed it? Well, I'd say this is big news! OMG why aren't more people talking about Obama caining McCain? I can't believe a lot of the states were won with like 100 percent.

    Golly Gee, that Obama guy is a popular fellow.

  3. Anonymous  

    That should have been in reply to #2 but it could also be ironically towards #3, I guess.

  4. BTW  

    Gelman is a stats professor, not pol-sci.

  5. yes  

    an analysis where the only way a vote counts is in the case of an exact tie is clearly silly - a much more fruitful way to evaluate the importance of voting is through kant's categorical imperative (look it's useful in real life!) is not voting unless you will cast a tie-breaking vote a universalizable maxim? clearly the answer is no, because if no one voted then that'd suck. so everyone has a duty to vote :)

    • no one

      has the duty to vote--everyone has the option to vote. Not voting can often be a political choice/statement--its the beauty of a democracy.

      • disagree  

        It's not a legal duty, but it is a civic duty. Failure to exercise your vote concentrates decision making power in the hands of those who choose to, which undermines the expectation that election results reflect some sort of collective general will. The US electoral system emphasizes the end product over the process, which is why you have stories every cycle about voter suppression, shitty registration methods, ignored provisional ballots etc. Because it doesn't matter so long as the person you support wins. The majority never have a stake in fixing the broken system, because they won.

        Your view undermines the bedrock of democracy and opens the door to creeping FASCISM.

        • collective will

          also includes the will to choose neither candidate..your argument by extension also suggests that voting for anyone except the main two party candidates is also a waste because it also serves to concentrate the power in the hands of those who vote for candidates who have a 'realistic' shot. In essence the argument you make about concentration of power by not voting is the impetus for the centralization of power by parties and subsequently surpresses a wider array of choices in our current system.

          Choosing not to vote concentrates power in precisely the group of people who were meant to hold it-those who feel that a particular candidate is a worthy of winning an office or that a particular position should be supported. One can sit on one's hands until they see a candidate they prefer for a particular office or once they feel a particular election has enough of an effect on their lives to actively participate in it (which is why referendums' will sometimes cause a spike in voter turnout). Furthermore citizens may also feel that they are not educated enough to make a choice based upon policy which would also keep them from the voting rolls.

          If your complaint is that the US should adopt some other type of election process then there is a much more complicated argument you can have--the US system specifically has checks which are meant to allow for centralization of power while also ensuring there are mechanisms of change and oversight. Your claims of stories of problems with voting are somewhat dulled by the fact that the presidential election in particular isn't some type of nationalized system--you can have appropriate local checks because there are separate state and local controls and standards for voting methods. Are there still problems, including troubling systemic ones? Almost certainly yes--but that isn't necessarily an indictment of the system as a whole.

          As for the ridiculous idea that choosing not to vote somehow undermines democracy and is tantamount to encouraging fascism--I think it's telling that you are the one who is chastising those who may utilize their agency in the way they see fit for not doing something the way you wish. The idea that democracy is some political syndicalist analogue where we will threaten its very existence by not voting misses the entire basis upon which democracy was grounded - personal freedom.

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