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Does Your Vote Really Count if You Don’t Live in a Swing State?

U.S. citizens with voting rights have about two days to decide who they will vote for in the presidential and local elections, or whether they will vote at all. Some states, known as “safe states,” rarely oppose their dominant political party in the national-level election. In the 2016 elections, analysts from 538 and other reputable polling aggregation bodies identified Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and a few other states as swing states. Since then, some of these swing states have become more Republican-leaning while others have become more Democratic-leaning. Because of the winner-take-all system used in almost all states in the U.S., voters in safe states may be dissuaded from casting their vote out of the cynical belief that it will have little impact on the course of the presidential election. While these voters may have little say in who the next president will be, their ballot is invaluable for both state and local elections.

It is seemingly reasonable to think that your vote would not make a difference if you do not live in a swing state. Some people will say your vote will not count even if you support the dominant political party in your state because that party will carry the state regardless of one, more or less, vote.

Nevertheless, there is a reason you should still vote even if you do not live in a swing state. That reason is local politics. Even if you cannot elect candidates you favor as your governor or senator right now, you can start by electing people who you support as mayors, members for city council, state assembly and local board of education. Additionally, you have the power to vote for legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives. Through electing these officials and also persuading your community to elect them, you are creating a small step towards a giant leap. The culmination of these small community actions by ambitious individuals may lead to shifting the state in favor of the political party you support.

As many already know, California is a safe state because of its largely Democratic population. However, this does not mean your vote carries no weight in California elections. For instance, if you live in Irvine, you can still vote for your mayor, city council members and representatives. You can also have your voice heard by voting for or against certain state propositions. Small changes always precede big changes, and you can participate in these small changes by voting in local elections. 

Sangho Seog is an Opinion Intern for the fall 2020 quarter. He can be reached at seog@uci.edu.