On Voting 4: Influencing and Disenfranchising

Influence the Vote

Generally speaking, our democracy has favored two types of candidates, or their amalgamation: 1) the cult of personality; or 2) the machine-backed. The former is able to drive their candidacy through innate charisma, perhaps not visible to all, but certainly to enough. The latter is supported by a political party or approximation thereof that is able to generate votes on their behalf. Barack Obama and Donald Trump both succeeded as the first example. Except that it is worth keeping in mind that Obama won by a massive number of popular votes because he was able to support his appeal with an extremely well organized machine. If Trump had been able to create a rapprochement with the traditional backers of the Republican Party, then it is easy to see him garnering significantly more votes based on their ability to support his candidacy.

Getting us to pull a particular lever in the voting booth is only the most obvious result of influence in play. The paralytic desire to abstain is no less a goal. Worse yet, is the longstanding effort to degrade the value of each vote.

Our willingness to allow politicians to say any damn thing during a campaign is one of the strangest outcomes of modern democracy. We have become so accepting of the casual lie that we assume it is the best that we can expect. While deceit is not new to politics, the volume and speed of information produces an onslaught of information that we are no longer equipped to evaluate.

When Your Vote Does Not Count

Democracy operates in one of two ways: everyone rules or everyone selects representatives who rule in their stead. Obviously, we have a representative democracy, like every other nationwide democratic government on the planet. So, when we vote, we expect our representative in the government to reflect the way that we voted. Essentially, we hope that each vote counts equally and the elected representatives will reflect voting patterns.

In the United States, the House of Representatives theoretically reflects the voting of the people by population, ideally representing the interests of their district. The Senate represents the interests of each state, placing all fifty on equal footing. We elect the President based on a mix of the two, essentially a weighted average of the people adjusted to emphasize state interests (the electoral college).

The House should be low hanging fruit

Let’s start with the Representatives. The number of representatives in the House remains static (essentially 435 since 1911). Every ten years, the national census occurs. The states divide up the available representatives anew, forcing a re-drawing of the boundaries of representative districts. (Since 1967 anyway when Congress stopped allowing election of Representatives by the results of statewide elections.)

Let’s save for another time the discussion about getting what you vote for once the elected official takes their seat. Here, we’ll focus on whether or not the election results reflect the will of the voters.

Moreover, let’s take the view that we all prefer representation in exchange for our votes. By this, you actually want your representative to be the person for whom you cast your vote. Furthermore, the House tends to operate along party lines. Most legislation happens because the majority party unites behind it. It does not matter if it is a declaration of a minor holiday or an overhaul of the tax system. So, though your vote may be for a losing candidate, you expect some representation of your view within the House if enough people in the country see things as you do.

Your vote is an investment and you expect representation for it. Otherwise, we would be back at true democracy and we would all need to vote on everything.

Part 1 of the series is where all this begins

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