James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Stay home–your vote won’t count anyway

Posted by James McPherson on July 30, 2008

That headline is a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ve known for a long time that, for the vast majority of us, our votes don’t matter.

Aside from the fact that each individual vote is such a small percentage of the whole that your vote is far more likely to be subject to accidental disqualification than to be the electoral decider, relatively few of us vote in states where our individual votes are likely to count. I spent most of my life voting in very red states, so there was no reason not to vote for an independent candidate  (my way of registering a small protest, since the Republican candidate was assured all of my state’s electoral votes, and I figured staying home indicated nothing but apathy). That’s part of the reason that protest voters such as PUMAs usually don’t matter much.

We also saw massive ballot problems in 2000 in Florida, and in 2004 in Ohio. As it turns out, most of us had no idea how bad it is.  As Heidi Stevenson points out in a truthout article this week:

Voting rights are under systematic attack in the United States. Techniques include:

  • Outright disenfranchisement.
  • Vote switching in election machines.
  • Refusal to allow the public to see how votes are counted.
  • Use of the people’s courts by political parties and corporations to subvert the law.
  • Use of lawsuit threats by large corporations against cash-strapped local governments to prevent them from examining voting machines.

As we used to say when presenting a good hand during a dorm card game: “Read it and weep.” But then send a copy to your local mainstream media outlets and your legislators, demanding action.

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One Response to “Stay home–your vote won’t count anyway”

  1. […] greater chance of being struck by lightning than you have of affecting a presidential election with your vote. But you can affect the course of your school district, and therefore the education of your […]

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