We're a little crazy, about science!

Day 311: When voting isn’t enough

Gerrymander

Rawr! Beware, the Gerry-mander!

I’ve been debating about writing this post and it’s just been rattling around in my head for the past month or so. Voting can change the course of history, frankly we saw that in the 2016 elections, but we also saw something else. Your vote doesn’t matter and that isn’t by accident. But wait, I just said voting can change the course of history, so how does it not matter? Well for that we need to go back, way back.

The electoral college, if you voted in the last decade and a half you probably have heard the term more than once. The electoral college has handed the presidency over to the loser five times in our history. We would have to go back to 1888 for the last time it happened, but then in 2000 and 2016 they did it again. The person who had the popular vote lost the election! So the questions now are what is the electoral college, why is the electoral college, and why doesn’t one vote equal one vote?

Well that last question is easy to answer, racism. We are a country founded on the idea that not all people are created equal despite what the propaganda says. In fact, at one time we considered Blacks as being 3/5 of a person, sounds about white to me (more reading). Of course, at the time Blacks were not allowed a vote, but the states wanted to count them somehow. Then the question became how do we count this group of people without giving them the right to vote. Enter the electoral college.

There were a lot of reasons the electoral college came into existence, none of them are good (more reading). The largest reason was this population of Black people primarily situated in southern states. The states wanted the power, but did not want to give the right to vote to Black people so instead we have 538 people who decide the fate of the US election for us. Now, a state’s number of electors equals the number of representatives plus two electors for the senators the state has in the United States Congress. The number of representatives is based on the respective populations, determined every ten years by the United States Census. They don’t even have to vote for the candidate the state prefers (called a faithless elector), but that doesn’t happen often.

If you’ve ever heard the term battleground state, that is because there are only a handful of states that actually determine the outcome of an election the number is between four and six depending on the article you are reading (four)(six). So while it’s important to vote and fill out your census, your vote doesn’t count for much and it wont until the electoral college is disbanded. One vote should equal one vote.

Okay you say, well at least voting still counts on a local level… right? Well no, sorry. Now we can introduce you to the gerrymander. Gerrymandering is a throwback to a comic drawing making fun of the way the Massachusetts district was drawn (by a guy named Elbridge Gerry in 1812). It’s a way to, you may have guessed it, make sure your vote does not count! While there are laws that are supposed to keep this from happening, a quick look at the way the maps are drawn will show some pretty egregious examples of this still happening today. In fact, it’s really easy to do! You can play a quick game to get the idea of how it works yourself (play Gerrymander).

Of course, there are laws in place keeping felons from voting. Florida trying to bring back poll taxes. Polling places only running during the hours most people work. Limiting the number of polling stations in certain counties. There are an endless number of ways the people in power do everything they can to stay in power!

“So what you’re saying is that the bottom line is we should just skip all that, accept our fate, and not vote?”

Nope. Vote, we need to vote. The people in power try to limit the amount of power YOU have to vote, but that is because voting is one of the only ways we the people can affect change in the world. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be protesting with the Black lives matter groups we do have 365 days in a year and only a few of those days are spent at the voting booth. It does mean that when the time comes to vote, you do it early, you do it often, and you do it wisely!

Know what you’re voting on and who you are voting for ahead of time. Make a game plan to be able to vote. Know where you can vote, when you can vote, and do it as soon as you can. The longer you put it off the worse your chances are of actually getting the chance to vote. This can have deadly consequences in a pandemic!

Remember your vote matters. If it didn’t the people in power wouldn’t be doing everything they can to take it away from you!

But enough about us, what about you?

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