Why every vote must count

Voting rights are the cornerstone of our democracy, and voting the fundamental “operating system” of the American republic. But significant challenges to voting rights today threaten to hold back democracy on the electoral and legislative level.

More and more, we see election results with razor thin margins: democracy in action can mean that elections are decided by the equivalent of randomly tossing a coin or, in 2000, by a controversial Supreme Court decision.

Key Issues: Every Vote Does Count

2016 Presidential Election

President Trump won the 2016 presidential election by only 77,000 votes out of 136 million votes cast – less than the capacity of the Rose Bowl.

2017 Virginia House of Delegates

In 2017, control of Virginia’s House of Delegates and the swing from Republican to Democratic control came down to a single vote in one race – and was eventually resolved by picking one candidate’s name out of a ceremonial bowl.

2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

In the 2000 presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, Bush carried Florida by 537 votes out of 6 million cast in the state, giving him an Electoral College victory.

2017 Atlanta Mayoral Race

The winner of Atlanta’s 2017 mayoral race eked out an 832-vote victory, or less than one percent of all 92,000 votes cast.

The consequences of not voting

Trump was the fourth presidential candidate in American history to win the Electoral College but not the popular vote: he lost the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes but it was 77,744 votes in 3 states that pushed him to electoral victory over Clinton. The outcome of that presidential contest would have been very different if the 91 million Americans who were eligible to vote casted their ballots. 

If only around half of Americans chose to vote, it is difficult to claim that any elected official truly represents the will of the people or has a clear mandate to carry out policies.

If citizens do not vote, they relinquish their right to a representative government. A democratic government draws it legitimacy from the citizens who elect it, and this legitimacy is threatened when few citizens exercise their democratic right to vote.

It is the responsibility of the government and the American people to identify the obstacles to voting and to find ways to make the electoral process more efficient and accessible so that our democracy can function as intended.