Despite its consistent unpopularity, the Electoral College has survived another election cycle and will determine the next President this November.
A majority of Americans want this traditional method of electing the President to be replaced, including 81% of Democrats and those who lean Democrat who say the Constitution should be amended so the candidate who receives the most votes nationwide wins the election, according to Pew Research.
While it is too late to amend the Electoral College in this election cycle, some of the more frustrating aspects of the system may actually free up your Presidential vote in 2020.
It is easy to see the unfairness of the Electoral College when considering that California’s electors represent 3.18 times more voters than Wyoming’s. In other words, a vote in Wyoming is worth over three times more than a vote in California.
But if Wyoming’s individual voters have more power than in any other state, why isn’t Wyoming a popular campaign stop for candidates? Apart from its small population, Wyoming is consistently conservative. The state has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964 and no Democrat candidate has even amassed one-third of the state’s vote since 2000.
If you’re a Democrat in Wyoming, your Presidential vote doesn't matter much at all. If you’re a Republican in Wyoming, your vote doesn't really affect the outcome either. Even in a close national election, Wyoming votes only matter in Wyoming, and there has not been a close election there in 20 years.
The same dilemma applies in pretty much every strong Democrat and Republican state from New York to most of Nebraska.
Nebraska is one of two states, along with Maine, which allocates its electoral votes by congressional district. The winner of each district receives one electoral vote, while the statewide winner receives two additional electoral votes. While Nebraska is a conservative stronghold statewide, one congressional district is shaping up to be a close race.
If you are voting in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes most of the Omaha metropolitan area, you should vote for either Donald Trump or Joe Biden. Even if you consider that choice to be the lesser of two evils, this is your best chance to have the biggest impact with your vote. According to FiveThirtyEight, Biden has a 76% chance of winning the district, though Trump is within striking distance and has a history of winning elections despite the polls giving him unfavorable chances.
Whether you are a Trump or Biden supporter, tolerator, or just hate one of them a smidge more than the other, voting for one of these two is the best way to make your voice heard in the Omaha area. The New York Times even wrote that the district could be the deciding factor in a tight national election. If you live in NE-02, a third party vote is foolish and would essentially be throwing your vote away.
If you live outside of the 2nd District in Nebraska or in any other solidly red or blue state, thanks to the Electoral College, your Presidential vote has pretty much been thrown away already. But that does not mean you should skip your trip to the polls altogether.
Not only are there plenty of down ballot elections to consider, but you have a special opportunity to vote for a more ideal candidate regardless of their chance of winning without the pressure of the nation’s fate resting in your ballot box.
As the ACLU Nebraska billboards across Omaha and Lincoln have said, “Every vote is a protest.”
In the case of Omaha, your vote for Trump or Biden is either a protest of Trump’s administration or Biden’s proposed policies. Everywhere else, your vote can serve as a protest of the two-party system that made two septuagenarians with sexual assault allegations who have both struggled to string together coherent sentences as the only two viable candidates in this year’s election.
You can still vote for Biden or Trump if you believe that they are truly the best options to lead the nation. But in uncompetitive areas, your list of potential candidates is greater than two.
Want a $20 minimum wage and a candidate who actually supports the Green New Deal without reservation? Vote for the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins.
Pro-life and anti-death penalty? Vote for Brian Carroll, the American Solidarity Party nominee.
Big rap fan and in favor of getting a million dollar check when you have a baby? Vote for Kanye West of the Birthday Pa – yeah, that’s probably throwing away your vote no matter where you live.
Still, a vote for Kanye in an uncompetitive state is not consequential for either of the two major candidates, so unless you are voting in a swing state or swing district, a vote for Kanye is not necessarily a vote for Trump, despite what some left-leaning sites may say.
None of these candidates have a chance of winning even one electoral vote in this year’s election, but your vote has the potential to send a message. Third party ideas are sometimes adopted by major party candidates, including women’s suffrage, the direct election of senators and even the abolition of slavery.
Is voting third-party a privilege? Absolutely. A white privilege perhaps? Considering that most states with a vast majority of white people are GOP strongholds, you could even make that argument. But that does not make it a bad thing. After all, for people living in more competitive districts, actually getting a chance to elect the President seems like a privilege in itself.
It is still possible for Biden to win Nebraska, Kansas and other traditionally conservative states, just as Trump could win Minnesota, Colorado and other traditionally liberal states. If you are a staunch Republican or Democrat, a map showing these states in your preferred color may be cool to see on election night, but they will not be the deciding factor, as close elections in these states are a sure sign of a landslide win in swing states.
In other words, even if third party votes keep Biden from eking out a victory in Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District — a Republican leaning district which includes Lincoln — they will probably not cost Biden from ultimately winning the Presidency.
So remember, this election, you can go to the polls or your nearest mailbox, and vote for your favorite candidate, free of the responsibility of actually picking the next President of the United States, just as our founding fathers intended.
And you can do it all with a clean conscience, knowing your vote for one candidate is not just a vote for one of two major party candidates in disguise.*
*Offer only available in select markets. Void where prohibited (including NE-02).
Brian Beach is a sophomore journalism major. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org