“Voted today!” boasts a Tweet. Instagram photographs of absentee ballots have been trickling in. And of course, no Facebook newsfeed during election season is complete without one of these: “Please go vote. Many have risked and lost their lives so that you may have a voice. So be a proud American and exercise your right to vote!”
Me? I’m going to be a proud American and exercise my right not to vote. As much as we all would like to think otherwise, every vote does not count, and to claim that voting gives us a voice is laughable at best. Look at the math: in 2008, the chances that a single American voter could have impacted the outcome of the election was one in 60 million, according to Columbia professor Andrew Gelman, statistician Nate Silver and Berkeley professor Aaron Edlin in their paper, “What Is the Probability Your Vote Will Make a Difference?” You are sixty times more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to affect a presidential election with your vote. Every single one of you reading this article could have voted a different way — or not at all — and Obama would still be in the White House.
Our winner-takes-all voting system doesn’t help, either. It doesn’t matter whether I’m registered to vote in my home state of Utah, in Georgia, where I went to school, or here in New York. We know the first two will go to Romney, and the latter will go to Obama. My “voice,” regardless of what it is, is irrelevant if I exercise it through my right to vote.