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    Sunday, November 09, 2008

    Does your vote count?

    The most ubiquitous reason for not voting that I hear from friends, acquaintances, and CNN, is that "my vote doesn't count." It comes from Republicans and Democrats (and Libertarians) alike. Living in Texas, my fellow Democrats (yes, I am a registered Democrat) complain that Texas will always be red, so there's no point.

    First, looking at it along party lines neuters the point anyways. Yes, Eugene Volokh just recently made a very cogent argument for voting straight party tickets, but I would counter that if you can educate yourself on the candidates, you should vote individually instead of straight party because people are complex entities and rarely stand with the party platform on every issue. This is incredibly prevalent today, as Republicans are a hodgepodge of Libertarians who cast their vote with a major party and conservative christians.

    Instead, you should look at the elections race by race. Then your vote always matters.

    Second, this feeling of voting impotence is so widespread that it feeds on itself and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just look at Florida in 2000. Clearly, had Democrat voters not thought this, and stayed home, Gore would have taken Florida and the white house.

    This year, because of the euphoria of Obama -- Obamaphoria, so to speak -- numerous democrats DID go out to the polls. The result? Let's look at Harris County, my county and one of the largest counties in the country.

    5 of 6 races were separated by less than 6%
    Historically, Harris county has been strongly "Red." Republicans make up most of the west of the county, in suburbs outside the Houston metropolitan area. The east part of the county is downtown Houston and some blue-collar small cities in the metroplex. It's much more Blue, but never achieves very good voter turnout -- hence the overall Red nature of the county.

    In this election, besides the vote for President of the USA, there were 42 contested elections in Harris county with 2-3 challengers. I'm ignoring uncontested races or races with 4+ challengers, as the odds of receiving a majority vote is infinitely small.

    Harris county went to Obama 51% to 49%.
    Out of the other 42 contested elections, 34 of 42 (81% or 5 of every 6) were decided by margins 53% to 47% or closer. 7 elections were statistically 50/50, separated by mere votes, in a county where each race often garners 600k to 800k total votes. 18 races were 51%/49%, 4 were 52/48, and 4 were 53/47 (and 1 was 54/46).

    Plus, all these elections were for the local leaders that impact the daily lives of voters -- arguably making these races far more important. They determined who'd try their cases in civil or criminal court, who'd determine what roads are built or repaved, and how to best lead the police force keeping the populace safe. That impacts more people on an immediate, temporal level, than whether Obama pulls troops out of Iraq in April 2009 or 2010.

    So, your vote really does count. Remember this, and take pride in standing in line, clicking those boxes, and submitting your ballot. Yours could be the vote that puts one candidate over the edge.

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