3 Key Reasons to Vote, Even in a Non-Swing State

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.


Marist poll indicates just how much damage Trump has done to the GOP

I’m going to go through some of the interesting points of Marist’s recent in-depth presidential election poll, released August 5. But the takeaway is – Donald Trump isn’t just losing, he is doing impressive damage to the Republican brand. According to the poll, Trump is losing registered voters by 15%: 33% to 48%. This is just one poll from one snapshot in time, so it’s not worth focusing on the overall figures (see fivethirtyeight.com for excellently aggregated polling data). But the details are revealing, because they give us information about how a likely Trump loss will affect GOP races across the country, and even the future of the Republican party.

Experience and Temperament

Look at Marist’s questions on various issues and candidate qualities – Trump loses every single category.

I have highlighted those categories where Trump’s percentage is lower than the percentage of people voting for him. In these four categories – treatment of Muslim Americans, issues facing LGBT Americans, and having the experience or temperament to be president, Trump’s ratings are so low that he must be losing some portion of his own voters. These are the things that are dragging down his presidency, and the first two issues are going to be lasting headaches for the GOP in down-ballot races and future elections. It will be an uphill battle to prevent the party from being defined as anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim for the foreseeable future. Of additional note, both candidates do very poorly in the category of honesty, which may predict a

Trump Losing to Third Parties?

Another interesting chart is the demographic breakdown with third party candidates included as options. The figure that immediately leaps out is the 18-29 year old demographic – Trump captures the vote of a monumentally low 9% of this demographic, losing to both third party candidates by significant margins.


Of note, Trump also loses to Hillary Clinton in every other age group. But for 18-29 year olds, 2016 is among their first presidential votes. If they are predisposed against the GOP by Trump, Republicans are going to have major issues maintaining a constituency in the future.

Other Notable Results

A few other figures are worth mentioning. Both candidates have high unfavorable ratings, but people seem a lot more excited to prevent Trump from being elected. 45% of registered voters find a Clinton win mostly or totally unacceptable, 59% think the same about Trump. Even among those who say they will vote for Trump, Trump is not very popular. Only 30% plan to vote for Trump because of the candidate himself, with 57% attributing their vote to a distaste for Clinton. Comparatively, 57% of Clinton supporters are voting for her and 40% are motivated to vote against Trump. It is unclear what affect this fear-based voting will have on turnout, but it does give more information about the nature of the unpopularity of both candidates (Clinton is mostly unpopular with Republicans, Trump is not popular with supporters of either candidate). It should again be emphasized that all of these results are drawn from a particularly bad time for Trump, and if his voter numbers rise, the rest of the questions are likely to rise accordingly.

One more thing. Much has been written recently about third parties, but when the third party candidates’ names aren’t explicitly included in the question, only 2% choose the “other” category. This may indicate a lack of dedicated support for third party candidates, and their votes in November may be significantly lower than polls currently indicate. If this is the case, it could help Trump’s numbers because there are a lot more supporters of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson than Green Party candidate Jill Stein.