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Paradox of democracy

After the recent midterm elections and reading Donald J. Boudreaux’s column “Politics’ rationally irrational nature” , it is interesting to consider the value of a vote. Voting may be important in the aggregate, but each individual’s vote is almost meaningless because each person is such a small percentage of the total. This is the paradox of democracy.

Each individual vote has a zero-percent chance of changing the outcome of an election. In Pennsylvania, there are 8.25 million registered voters, and in Allegheny County, there are over 880,000. Even with a 10-percent voter turnout, you would only have a 1-in-88,000 chance of changing the outcome in a county race, 1-in 825,000 in a state race. This gives us an idea about how little an impact we may have as individuals. Even if it were to come down to a single vote, the courts would take up the decision. I submit Florida in 2000 as exhibit A.

There are reasons we can identify to vote, like voicing opinion, giving support to candidates that match commonly held values, and exercising the right to, vote but the hope of changing the outcome of these elections shouldn’t be high on that list.

Ian Dean Summers

Logan, Utah

The writer is academic programs specialist for Strata Policy.


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