I know this is sacred territory. Some Americans equate voting with the only civil right that matters.
But does every vote matter — or is it possible the system is flawed?
Growing up I heard a lot of folklore about the ‘one vote that mattered’ in elections, but as far as a I can tell, there have been very few, if any, significant elections altered by a single vote. The only one that comes to mind for me is the 1876 Presidential election, which was in fact decided by one vote. But the election is hardly an example of how well the system works. It is just the opposite and the election is a black spot on America’s past.
I write about this because I live in Ohio’s 8th Congressional District. House Speaker John Boehner, just two steps away from presidential power, has represented this region for decades — ever since he was first elected in 1990. Since 1990, besides running unopposed several times, he has never faced any serious competition.
But, the region is hardly prosperous. Parts of the gerrymandered district are under-employed, impoverished and in decline. Although not responsible for all the woes that have beset this area, Boehner seems to have done little to stem the economic fallout.
Which goes back to the original question, does every vote really matter.
In Ohio, we use a closed primary system. What this means, in a nutshell, is every May (sometimes March), when it is time for voters to decide who will appear on the November ballot, not everyone has a say. FairVote.org offers this explanation of closed primaries,
In a closed primary, only voters registered with a given party can vote in that party’s primary. Parties may have the option to invite unaffiliated voters to participate, but such independent voters usually are left out of the primary unless they decide to give up their independent status.
So during the primary, a large percentage of voters in Boehner’s home county of Butler and in Preble County, where I live, do not cast a vote for their potential Congressmen — instead being required to wait until November.
In fact, in the 2014 May primary, 83 percent of the 234,320 Butler County voters (193,833) had no say. In Preble County, a region which is small enough that its voting base has no sway on national politics, 65 percent — or 17,800 voters had no say in who would be on the November ballot as their potential representative in Congress.
Or to put it another way, only a small number of voters in the 8th District do decide which candidates end up on the ballot.
In Butler County, 19,900 voters chose Boehner as their party’s candidate for the 8th Congressional District while 3,631 chose Tom Poetter as the Democrat candidate — but all of the county’s 234,320 voters have to accept it — and then choose between them come November.
Which, one could argue, doesn’t really reflect the will of all the people.