I reside in the “solid blue” Commonwealth of Massachusetts, so I hear a lot of people here despair that there is little reason to vote in the upcoming election. This worries me, because American democracy depends heavily on the informed participation of its citizens. There are many reasons to vote in a non-swing state in 2016, some obvious and some much more subtle. I’ve decided to lay out some of these reasons in the hopes that more people will fit voting into their busy schedule.
1. Down-ballot races
This is the reason most people probably think of first – the electoral news you read from day to day will be almost entirely about the Presidential candidates at the top of the ticket, but when it comes time to vote you’re going to see a lot more names on the ballot.
Even the staunchest party strongholds like Massachusetts elect state officials from the other party, and these brave few help keep the majority party in check. Massachusetts Republicans hold many state legislature seats and local elected positions. They sometimes even win statewide elections such as Scott Brown’s surprise (short-lived) Senatorial victory, or current governor Charlie Baker. If you don’t show up to vote because you don’t like your presidential choices, you give up your voice in the other races – national legislators, state legislators, even town officials. Some of these smaller races are decided by a handful of votes and have the potential to have a great effect on your life.
2. Your state might start swinging
It’s probably obvious by now that the Trump’s unconventional candidacy, and both candidates’ record unpopularity have lead us into a dark and unpredictable election season. But there is long term unrest lurking behind the momentary craziness. The GOP and Democrat parties are both undergoing rapid change, and the GOP in particular faces a lot of uncertainty about it’s future direction.
Former stronghold states from both parties are becoming less predictable, and unless you live in Massachusetts, California, Alabama, or Oklahoma, your presidential vote could end up closer than you think. This promises to continue even into (potentially) more conventional future elections. The appeal of many heretofore predictable party policy platforms is changing rapidly, along with America’s demographic makeup.
While states like Georgia and Texas are still more likely to go to Trump than Clinton, the conflicting polling figures for these states leaves some room for doubt. Fivethirtyeight.com gives Clinton an 85% chance of winning a state Romney won in 2012, and even with his national polling deficit Trump is given a 64.3% chance of winning a 2012 Obama state. Voting is the safe bet in an election that could see unprecedented reversals and even significant polling error.
3. You are fighting for resources and representation
Elections, despite what you read, aren’t only about the win.
As party platforms change to meet changing demographics, margins of victory will play a part in forming new policy positions. Whoever this country elects as our next president (I’ve made my electoral caveat), they will see a difference between a Massachusetts that goes to Clinton by the predicted 24 points and one where Clinton significantly under-performs polls but still manages a win. Conversely, Texas might be likely to go to Trump, but the margin of this victory could move it to swing state status in future elections.
Being a swing state isn’t just about being interviewed by hordes of shoe-leather reporters every time you go to the grocery store. Even after the election, presidents that want a second term have to pay close attention to the wants and needs of swing states. And the flood of advertising money and campaign events can have significant effects on a state (both negative and positive). Even helping your state move out of the swing state category can help future candidates in your party – presidential candidates don’t need to spend as much time and money in states they know they have locked up.
From the jumble of potential effects, it might be tough to decide what is best for your state, but it’s hard to argue that the margin of a candidate’s victory doesn’t matter. November’s vote is your chance to affect monumental change, even if you can’t change which presidential candidate wins your state.