Disillusioned by a Broken System: Some Plan Not To Vote, Believing Their ‘Votes Do Not Count’

A Suffolk University poll released this past April underscores voters’ disillusionment with U.S. elections; many registered and non-registered voters alike believe that their votes “do not count” and, accordingly, said they do not intend to vote this November.

Midterm turnout is traditionally lower than turnout during presidential election years. However, it is still troubling that this belief has become widely held—and in this poll was the most common reason cited for planning not to vote. This echoes non-voters’ same concern with our presidential elections: a feeling that their votes do not count or matter. In the case of the presidency, they are correct in most cases. The current model for electing the president ends up devaluing millions of votes; votes which are not cast in a dozen or fewer states that hold the key to victory count for very little since they have little to no chance of influencing the election’s outcome. To voters dissatisfied with this flawed system, our presidential electoral process can instill negative expectations of all elections, including down-ballot contests. The preconception that U.S. elections are dysfunctional has eroded both trust in government and voter participation, and it will continue to do so unless we demand reform.

Let’s change that system so that every vote for president DOES matter, no matter what. A national popular vote to choose the next President would not only correct the imbalances of our current system, but it should be a step in the right direction to restore voter confidence and participation. As we have noted before, Americans do vote when they know that their vote matters.