Editorial: Do Our Votes Matter?

Not for president or vice president, apparently…

Editor-in-Chief Brian Wild

Graphic Courtesy of 270toWin

270toWin Interactive Map

The text of this article was originally posted to Facebook:

“Okay, so I haven't done a rant on social media in a long, long time, but I feel I need to get this off my chest...

What upsets me most about the presidential election isn't about Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton. It isn't even about policies. Yes, of course, those things are very important. And like a responsible, civic-minded American, I did weigh my options for president, pondered over what issues I care about most, and then made my decision. But still - that's not what has frustrated me so much about the result.

Rather, I am outraged by the sad reality that, for millions of Americans, our votes don't matter. Why do I say this? Because Hillary Clinton is on track to win the popular vote - meaning more voters nationwide voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, or anyone else. In spite of that, Donald Trump is all but certain to become our nation's 45th president. This is because he is on track to win a majority of electoral votes; as we saw in 2000, a candidate who receives fewer votes than his/her opponent can still become President. All thanks to the Electoral College.

For those of you who believe I'm saying this because you think I'm just another butt-hurt Hillary supporter, trust me, my politics has NOTHING to do with my frustrations. In fact, I'd be saying the same thing - and be equally upset - if the tables were turned and Hillary lost the popular vote while winning the electoral vote. For me, it's just a matter of principle.

Ever since we were kids, the concept of elections has been pretty straightforward. If two third graders, for instance, are running for class president in a class of 31 students, whoever receives at least 16 out of 30 votes is elected class president. It's that simple. For virtually every political office in America - whether it's school board, city council, state legislature, Congress, or governor - whichever candidates receives the most votes wins. (It's really not that complicated!) Every office, that is, except for president and vice president.

Ever wonder why the major party candidates almost never visit certain states - like California, New York, or Texas - unless it's to suck up to rich people at fundraisers (i.e., Hollywood)? It's because both the Democratic and the Republican candidates take these states for granted. After all, California and New York are always expected to vote Democratic, while Texas is considered a Republican stronghold. So the tens of millions of voters who live in those states are basically ignored. And that's not right.

While Trump was leading in the popular vote last night, as of this afternoon, Clinton had overtaken Trump in the popular vote - mainly because West Coast states, like California, began reporting the rest of their vote totals. Again, to reiterate: more Americans cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. Yet Donald Trump has been declared the winner. Is that democracy at its finest? I would say no...

Now yes, I know "why" the Electoral College was put into the Constitution. The general argument about "safeguarding the rights of the minority" does deserve respect, and our government recognizes this in other ways. But it doesn't justify why a few hundred thousand votes in Pennsylvania or Michigan are more decisive than the same numbers of votes (or more) in California or Texas, among other states.

So what needs to be done? For better or for worse, we need to amend the U.S. Constitution. Which, yes, may be a herculean task, but that doesn't make it any less necessary. For those who are wary of changing "the supreme law of the land," let's not be tricked into thinking our Constitution is a completely perfect document that was handed to us by Jesus himself. (If it were really "perfect," I'm pretty sure it would have never permitted slavery, denied women the right to vote, etc.) We've amended it 27 times already - we should amend it a 28th time. Let's do away with such an archaic institution that permits voters in "swing" states to matter more than others. ALL votes must matter, regardless of where you live. (Even the territories! But that's another discussion.)

I sincerely wish I could debate this with others who disagree, but frankly I don't have much time to go on Facebook & spend 3 hours in the same convo thread. I just really had to get this off my chest...

Okay, rant over. My condolences to everyone who actually reads this entire post! Aloha from Hawai'i!”

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of UH Hilo’s recovering political junkie, Brian Wild.