I have argued in the past that a single, centralized federal government is begging for unlawful increases in power, and can never be changed by voting as a result of its massive size; a single citizen’s vote cannot count toward anything. What this eventually boils down to is that she has absolutely no sovereignty over her own life, nor any say in her government. “We should just shrink it,” I used to argue, “to a smaller size… for example, since our states are somewhat like the size of whole, sovereign countries in Europe, we could just make states sovereign and have the people of Texas deciding what Texas does, rather than being a part of the decision concerning what happens to residents of Maine and Oregon.”
In light of these thoughts of mine, I want to give you some perspective on voting, and how much your vote counts.
We will use me as an example, in the scenario that the United State makes voting compulsory, as it is in Australia and Malta (I hope my math is right on all of these!):
When I vote in a federal election, I am 1 of roughly 307,006,550 people.
My vote in a federal election is worth: 0.000000325% of the vote. That’s about equal to being one of the seconds in a period of 9 years, 8 months, and 12 days. That means, approximately, that that first second on October 18, 2000 is you, and just right now (June 30, 2010), was the last second of the amount you are part of.
Okay so that’s way too big to mean much, so we should have just states govern themselves! Then I would vote for the happenings of my state and it would be fairer since there would be way fewer people voting on stuff they don’t know about (namely, how to run my state when they live in Alaska)… right?
When I vote in a state election (Georgia), I am 1 of roughly 9,829,211 people.
My vote in a state election is worth: 0.00001% of the vote. That means you’re close to one ten-millionth of the population (by the way, a meter is one ten-millionth of the distance from the Equator to the North Pole… an atom is about one ten-millionth of a millimeter across).
Wow, I didn’t know I was that insignificant, even in a state election… I really don’t have any say, even over what the governor and the state legislator do? I always thought that was really small! …All right, fine, let’s go even smaller, what I thought was microscopically small: local government.
When I vote in my home county’s election (surely, I get a lot of say in this!), I am 1 of roughly 789,499 people.
My vote in a county election is worth: 0.00012% of the vote. That’s one one-millionth (1.2E-6). A micrometer is one one-millionth of a meter… which means a hundred of you are the width of a strand of human hair (100 μm wide). You and seven of your friends count as the diameter of a red blood cell (8 μm), setting winning 100% of the vote at a whole meter.
Wow, so I can’t even influence my county’s government that much? That’s such a tiny portion of the vote!! That’s hardly anything at all! What am I even voting for?
Now, now. We could make each city sovereign, where only the people within that city vote for what they want. Since our example guy lives in a pretty small city (about 11,000 people), let’s see how much his one vote means in the scheme of things for voting for the mayor. I’m sure it makes a difference.
When I vote in my home city’s election, I am 1 of about 11,307 people.
My vote in a city election is worth: 0.008% of the vote. “Wow! That’s pretty sizable!” you might say; but remember, we have been comparing to your molecular droplet in the ocean of others voting for things that you don’t want to be law, but that still apply to you and can send you to jail.
Even at such a “small” level, you’re still only about seven seconds in a whole day of other people.
“Then,” you might be saying, “that’s why it’s so important that I get a lot of other people to vote the way I do, so the country goes in the right direction [meaning, the way I want it to]!”
All right! Sounds good, let’s do it. Suppose I do some serious campaigning or bribing or threatening and everyone in my city votes for, say, a third party candidate that no one knows about but us. That’s still only .0036% of the vote, which means my entire city and I together are only about 10 feet high, compared to the line called the Kármán line, which defines the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.
Well that’s not very high at all… that’s hardly anything compared to the whole distance, huh?
But let’s be crazy! Somehow voting has got to be the best way to govern ourselves! Let’s think outside the box and imagine that, somehow, you have managed to get the whole state of Georgia to vote for a certain presidential candidate! Wow, wouldn’t that be crazy! What a huge number of people that is, isn’t it? Certainly a lot; imagine that they all went in and ticked the right guy. What progress!
If everyone in Georgia voted for the same candidate, that is worth 3.2% of the vote. Everyone living in my entire state voting for one guy would still only be an inch toward the yard that is the election.
You may conclude from this, as I have, and as 43.2% of Americans of voting age did in the 2008 election (which was the biggest voter turnout since 1968!), that it’s probably just not worth it to cast my single little vote. After all, how much is my say really even worth?
Even in the most recent voter turnout, which was about 56.8% of Americans of voting age, as a single one of them, the difference you make is only .00000075% of the vote… making you still only about the width of a hemoglobin molecule in the distance between the floor and the top of a doorknob. In other words, you’ve gone about the width of a human finger (21 mm) in the entire length of Interstate 95, which stretches from Houlton, Maine, to Miami, Florida (about 3 megameters). You’re the weight of an adult lion against the collective weight of the entire human population of earth.
So at least, I guess, we can be happy that not everyone votes!
After all, it means you’re worth (a microscopically tiny amount) more.
But, in all likelihood, I’ll keep voting, since even though it’s not true to any extent that we can reasonably measure microscopically, it’s nice to think that when the results are announced, you’re a part of them.