Election 2013: My vote wouldn’t have made a difference, and neither did yours

If there is one surefire way to start a fight at the College of William and Mary, tell someone you didn’t vote. It’s funny how fast they’ll lecture you on the importance of democracy, on the power of the vote, and how they present to you — all too proudly — the ever-present “I voted!” sticker.

I didn’t vote.

Before you brand me un-American, a flag burner or anti-patriotic, think about what your vote really means. This isn’t about absurd conspiracy theories, crazy electoral colleges or rigged voting machines. It’s simple math.

In the history of the United States, no presidential election has ever come down to a single vote. No senate or gubernatorial election has ever been decided by one vote.

That’s over 200 years. I’ll concede New York’s 36th Congressional District in 1910 — that one was decided by one vote. Until the recount, when the numbers changed, turning into a six-vote gap. Funny.

Candidates win by hundreds, if not thousands, of votes. The 55,220 votes that separated Democratic Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe and Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli in this week’s election caused headlines touting McAuliffe’s narrow victory, a hotly contested race and terms like “nail bitter,” “close” and “tight.” Both candidates campaigned for months to gain your ever-so-important vote.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if McAuliffe won by 55,220 votes or 55,221 votes. McAuliffe won’t adjust his platform based on a single vote, and you can bet the same would hold true if Cuccinelli had won entrance to the Executive Mansion.

If every person who reads this column could rescind their vote, the election outcome would be the same. In fact, if this column gets more than 55,220 hits on the website, I’ll register and vote in every election until I die.

The point remains the same, however. A single vote, cast one way or another, ends up doing one of two actions. Either a vote cancels out a vote for the opponent, or a vote stacks on top of another in favor of a candidate. In either case, a single vote does not affect the outcome of any state or national election.

For many, the ability to vote is as sacred as the freedom of speech. I respect those who cherish their right to vote and hold nothing against those who trek to the polls every November. Vote away, but realize the numbers aren’t in your favor.

The minuscule effort it takes to vote doesn’t outweigh the argument of the rational person. You’re better off spending the minute it takes to vote editing those “I voted!” stickers. “I didn’t vote!” will stick to your shirt just as well.

Email Chris Weber at cmweber@email.wm.edu.


  1. Aside from the fact that the author is by definition a “free rider” that just hopes other people will make the outcome he wants happen, the author seems to think that the importance of an action is weighted on its ability to uniquely and singularly produce an action. This seems odd. A cavity does not form by failing to brush a single time, and there’s no “tipping point” number.

  2. Of course, the “free rider” issue raised by Anonymous is the key point. You benefit from others’ sacrifice in choosing to be active citizens of a democracy. But the irony is, you wrote this prior to a statewide election in which one individual, by voting and campaigning, conceivably COULD have made all the difference: the Virginia state attorney general’s race.


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