Mark Batt

Two-hundred and seventy. That’s how many electoral votes it takes to win a presidential election in the United States. Nebraska can offer up to five electoral votes to a presidential candidate, whereas California offers 55 electoral votes. These states have something in common: they can be reliably counted on to vote a certain way. Some states, such as Colorado, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio, are referred to as battleground states. Battleground states are states that presidential candidates need to carry that can either go Democrat or Republican. This puts states like ours on a path to exclusion from presidential and high-profile Congressional elections.

Presidential candidates flock to states that have the ability to swing their way. National parties and interest groups pour money into these districts and areas in order to swing voters and eventually carry the state. Even in Congressional elections, we can see some districts and states becoming more and more polarized on the political spectrum. Eventually, this process washes the state off the map as it’s written off as “red” or “blue” and simply forgotten about. These swing districts and battleground states are dinosaurs; they’re becoming obsolete. But they don’t have to be.

If a state or a Congressional district is neither completely Republican nor Democrat, it’s generally deemed purple – a mix on the color scheme between red and blue – how fancy! Every Congressional district, and thereby every state, has the ability to be purple. For example, Nebraska, a state that generally delegates its electoral votes to the Republican candidate, voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt — a Democrat — in 1932 and 1936. Nebraska has also elected several Democratic governors and U.S. Senators in addition to a member of the House of Representatives. In 2008, we even gave an electoral vote to President Obama. We have a long, rich history of being moderate voters. Don’t let the polarization of Washington, D.C. and our current Congress rub off on our voting habits. Nebraska and any other capable state can become Independent. We can elect both Democrats and Republicans to our state houses and Congressional delegations – that’s the beauty of our election process. The ugly side of it, however – the Electoral College – has plagued our country with a stamp of red or blue. This stamp is a death sentence for a state wishing to have a voice in presidential elections.

What can you do to change the way others view our state as a political actor in elections? There’s no special formula or amount of money that makes a state purple. Even though we see the Koch Brothers and Democratic PACs putting millions of advertising dollars into states across the country, these states cannot be sold at auction. These states are independent of one another and all have the ability to bring something different to the political table and can all be moderate, independent thinkers.

To be moderate is to be informed. It takes moderate folks like you and me to make smart decisions as to who we will vote for and how they can lead and represent us in their respective offices. It’s important to remember when watching election coverage that no state is more important than any other. No city is more special or is more vital to the country than any other. The American electorate is an equal group of people and each one of our states should be treated the same by presidential contenders.

You as a student may think you have no say and that your vote doesn’t count. To a certain extent, it doesn’t. However, we have the ability to make our votes mean something. We can challenge our leaders and have the ability to change policies and set goals and take action for the betterment of society. Whenever you hear someone discuss red or blue states, just remember that we aren’t red, and we aren’t blue – we are Nebraska and we are purple.

Get out and vote, and vote early if you can. If you aren’t from Nebraska but wish to vote here, get registered. If you want to vote in your home city/state, look online for instructions as soon as possible. This is an important right to exercise. It truly cannot be stated and overstated enough. Just remember that we aren’t red, and we aren’t blue — we are Nebraska and we are inde-freaking-pendent!

Mark Batt is a senior political science major, you can reach him at opinion@