“They feel like their vote doesn’t count.”
I had been halfway listening to the news story up until this point. But in one succinct sentence, this college student student summed up voter apathy.
The October 5, 2018 news story aired on ABC4 News and was talking about a new campaign to encourage college students to vote. The state of Utah has created a competition among college campuses to see who can get the most students register to vote. The prize is the “Campus Cup.” However, most students don’t even know what the campus cup is. Trying to get young people to vote is truly nothing new. The interesting thing is that young people are the largest group of people eligible to vote, but that doesn’t mean that they vote.
The Challenge to Get Young People to Vote
According to a Pew Research Study, “As of April 2018 (the most recent data available), 59% of adults who are eligible to vote are Gen Xers, Millennials or ‘post-Millennials.’ In the 2014 midterm election, which had a historically low turnout, these younger generations accounted for 53% of eligible voters but cast just 36 million votes – 21 million fewer than the Boomer, Silent and Greatest generations, who are ages 54 and older in 2018.”
What is keeping young people from voting? This is a question that the State of Utah has worked to identify for years. Convenience seems to be a common reason. So to make voting easier, some counties have instituted voting by mail. The effects of voting by mail has been significant and has led to increased voter “turnout.” An article in the Salt Lake Tribune shared research from Pantheon Analytics which compared counties that allowed voting by mail with those that did not offer voting by mail. The impact of voting by mail led to turnout exceeding expectations, as shown in the table below taken from the Salt Lake Tribune article.
Low Voter Turnout
However, even with the introduction of more convenient voting options, we still are struggling to get people to vote. 66.6% of adult females between the ages of 25 and 34 voted by mail in counties with vote by mail. However, there is still over 30% of people who still aren’t voting. This is part of an overwhelming trend across the nation and even in Utah.
Even though voter turnout in Utah is higher than it has been in a while, the numbers still aren’t great. In the 2016 Presidential Election, only 57.7% of the voting eligible population cast votes. That makes Utah #40 in the United States.
Making Your Vote Count
What is the issue? It goes back to what the college students said in the interview: “They feel like their vote doesn’t count.” Each person has one vote that is a small percentage of the final count: one vote out of 1,143,601 votes for the 2016 presidential election. One vote doesn’t seem like it would make much of a difference.
Even if you do feel like your vote counts, it can be frustrating when you vote for a candidate that gets a small majority of the vote. Then in the bigger race between the top two candidates your vote isn’t included. Take for example the 2016 Presidential Election. Evan McMullin received 21.3% of the popular vote in Utah. However, he was not a top candidate so people who voted for McMullin weren’t able to contribute their vote for the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. That 21% that McMullin got ended up skewing the final voting results.
Ranked choice voting would have helped those who voted for McMullin have a voice in the final runoff. With ranked choice voting, voters would have made a second and third choice. Once McMullin was eliminated from the race, voters second choice could have been included in the next round. McMullin’s 21.3% would have been divided between the top two candidates to show a clear majority winner.
2016 Presidential Election Results for the State of Utah
|Candidate||Party||Number of Votes||Percentage of Votes|
|Donald J. Trump||Republican||515,231||45.1|
Ranked Choice Voting Makes Every Vote Count
Ranked choice voting can help reduce voter apathy by helping voters know that every vote counts. Each time a candidate is eliminated from a round, a person’s next choice is included in the next round. So even if my top candidate gets eliminated, I still get to have one of my top options included in the final count. My vote keeps “counting” in subsequent rounds and my voice is heard in the final round. Ranked choice voting could help all voters feel like their votes actually count.