Op-Ed: Why I Am Not Voting in the 2012 Presidential Election

“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.

I get it, though. It’s the principle of voting — it’s our civic duty, right? — that gets a lot of people to the polls. It’s part of being an American. It would be unpatriotic not to vote, others have scoffed. What’s even more unpatriotic to me is to vote for the sake of voting and to vote for a candidate I don’t fully endorse. Even worse is voting for the lesser of two evils — you’re still voting for evil, which both of the major candidates in this election are in my opinion. Nothing in the world could make me vote for Romney, because of his support for the Patriot Act and NDAA, which we’ve already watched destroy the civil liberties of American citizens. It’s the same reason I won’t vote for Obama, who hasn’t had any qualms using them. I’m not voting for Romney because that’s just asking for war. It’s the same reason I won’t vote for Obama, who spews rhetoric on ending the wars yet fought to keep troops in Iraq, has kept them in Afghanistan, and has sent them to Libya, Yemen and Central Africa. His drone strikes have killed between 1,800 and 3,300 people (men, women and children) and even more horrifying is his secret kill list. Romney’s view on gay marriage is another reason why he will never get my vote. It’s, again, the same reason I won’t be voting for Obama, who, after four years of “evolving,” conveniently came out in support of gay marriage just in time for election season but still has no plans to address the issue at the federal level. I could go on, but for all intents and purposes, an Obama presidency and a Romney presidency would be identical as far as I’m concerned.

So write in, some have told me. As if it were that easy! We don’t even have to play the numbers game to recognize the uselessness of write-in votes (for the record, in 2008, 226,908 people wrote in, against the 69,456,897 votes Obama received). On top of that, every state has different rules regarding write-in candidates — some require write-in candidates to submit petitions, statements of intent and the like — that make write-in votes ineligible. “I don’t think it’s very productive,” Representative Ron Paul, who ran in the Republican primaries, said. “Supporters can do it, of course, but in most of the states it won’t count. And if they can change the rules in a primary and not count all the votes, imagine what they could do with write-in votes!” And this was in 2008, before the GOP abused their power to crush the Paul campaign. After voting in the primaries and watching the injustice unfold, you can bet I won’t be submitting to the same biased system again.

Sure, if the 55.5 million registered voters who didn’t vote had done so in 2008, the course of the election might have changed. Or hypothetically, if 55.5 million people who had voted chose not to, it might have turned out differently. And if nobody voted — though it’ll never happen — that’s the magnitude of change I want to see, because maybe then the government will stop growing, and the power will be back with the people.

I’m not trying to dissuade anybody from voting, the same way I hope nobody will try to persuade me to vote (it won’t happen). Like New York Times magazine contributor Jim Holt wrote, the only way a single person could swing the election is to run for President on a third party ticket, since you are six times more likely to become President than your vote is to change the election. An easier way to incite change? Education — so on November 6, instead of waiting in line at the polls to cast a ballot that won’t make a difference no matter what I do, I’ll make my voice heard by explaining why I’m not voting.