People walk to the Arcata Community Center to cast their ballots on November 3 | Photo by Thomas Lal

Dismal democracy


The Lumberjack editorial staff comments on America’s flawed electoral system

As the world watches the United States 2020 election results, waiting for our pseudodemocratic process to churn out a new president, historically unprecedented voting methods misrepresents the reported Election Day results.

A common misconception surrounding the democratic voting process is that a casted ballot directly counts toward and impacts the presidential election. However, the reality is that every individual’s vote doesn’t hold the same amount of power or equitable value.

The power and value behind your vote is entirely dependent on where you live. Because the electoral college ultimately chooses the president, not the people, the real value of your vote is determined by the ratio of individual votes to electoral votes in each state. 

For example, California has a population of about 39.5 million. We have 55 electoral votes, one for each of our congressional representatives. That works out to about 718,000 people per electoral vote. Wyoming has a population of about 579,000. They have three electoral votes. Only one from their representative in the house, but two from their representatives in the senate like every other state. That works out to about 193,000 people per electoral vote. If you’re from California, a Wyoming presidential vote is worth 3.7 times the amount of yours. The story is the same for many of the less populated states.

The voting process falsely validates casted ballots and ultimately undermines votes through the electoral college’s overriding casted vote. Ultimately, you’re not directly voting for a presidential candidate, you’re informing the decision of the electors who do. 

Within battleground states, Democrats are sending in more mail-in ballots than their Republican counterparts. The New York Times estimates that 64 million mail in ballots were cast in this election, nearly three times the amount cast in the 2016 election. While COVID-19 played a significant factor in the disparity, pushes came from Democratic candidates across the nation to gain momentum moving into Election Day.

Due to mail-in ballots accounting anywhere from 20-50 percent of the votes in different states, we may not know actual election results until days after election night. States, such as North Carolina, are planning to accept ballots postmarked on election night until Nov. 12. Some states have relatively small margins of difference, which could result in swing states prolonging the definitive results of the election.

Additionally, the United States leaves self-declared territories, for example Guam and the Dominican Republic, neglected in the political process and without influence in the choice of US president. The same could be said for the millions of American citizens who have been deprived of their right to vote because of the criminal justice system. This imbalance significantly alters the demographic of voting participants, therefore not valuing or accounting for every community’s perspective. 

This disparity leads to presidents with less votes defeating their opponents, or candidates never getting a clear majority. 

While the Lumberjack staff believes the US’s democratic process is deceitful in terms of transparency, we do not agree or echo any of Trump’s sentiments that discredit voting. Instead, we believe his spewing of misinformation contributes to the detriment of the country’s Democratic Republic status. 

The US glamorizes its democratic facade as legitimate, straight forward and for the people, however, systemic strategies have displaced and deprived American citizens of their Constitutional right to vote. Between systemic imbalance of the electoral college, active voter suppression and unequal voter representation, our democracy is rooted in unequal representation. 

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