When it comes to the Presidential election, your individual vote has less and less impact. First, we have a tightly structured, gridlocked two party political system. In order for a candidate to emerge as a viable candidate for President, in almost all instances, he or she must work through one of the two major political parties. If you're not a Republican or a Democrat, you don't have much of a chance. The notable exceptions…like Ross Perot in the 90's, John Anderson in the 70's and Teddy…yes Teddy…Roosevelt in the early 1900's…only reinforce how difficult it is to be outside one of the two parties.




The Primaries



Let's start with the primaries. The nominating process for candidates in both parties is relatively undemocratic. The primaries and caucuses are structured around electing delegates who then cast their votes for candidates. It's not really a direct vote. While there is some attempt to partial delegates based on percentages of votes, it's not a one person one vote each weighs the same outcome. Individual states handle the awarding of delegates differently. Nor is every vote equal. Caucuses, unlike primaries, tend to have a small turnout of voters, all of whom have to spend several hours to cast their votes. Automatically, a caucus state is going to have a smaller number of voters selecting their candidate.




In the Democratic Party nominating process there is something called the super-delegates. Super-delegates are not chosen by voters, but are elected officials and party high ups who can cast their vote for whichever candidate they want. These super-delegates account for an astounding 20% of the 4119 total Democratic Party delegates. That's absurd! And that's why for example, that although Hillary Clinton won more of the popular vote than Barack Obama, she will not receive the nomination. The combination of awarded delegates and super-delegates gives the nomination to Obama.




While the Republican party's process does not have super-delegates, their system is equally non-direct, and skewed away from a genuine one person one vote approach. There are approx 2360 delegates from across the country who will pledge to a candidate. States can earn "bonus" delegates based on how many republicans they have in Congress, if the state legislature of governorship is Republican controlled, or if their state cast a majority electoral vote for a Republican presidential candidate in the last election. Likewise, their caucuses involve only party members meeting amongst themselves and choosing in an often complicated process that sometimes doesn't even allow for secret balloting.




Finally, the Republican nominating process doesn't even mandate proportional representation as the Democratic party's process does. Each state decides. Some might do proportional representation. Others, a winner take all approach in which means that whether 51% or 99% of voters choose one candidate, that candidate wins all the delegates in that state. Finally, some states delegates are not even required to vote for the candidate to whom they were pledged. The whole system, for both parties, is complicated, antiquated, and only marginally democratic. And it weakens the power of the individual vote.




Lastly, and this is true for both parties, the current caucus and primary process is so frontloaded – that in most elections the nominee is effectively chosen well before the later primaries even occur. That's why you saw so many states in this primary season trying to move their primaries up, so that they were relevant in determining the outcome.




Until the Democrats and Republicans each decide to have a simple, direct, one person one vote national primary, where the winner in each party is the one who wins the most popular votes from across the country, then your individual vote is simply a representation that ultimately plays into the party system and a process which tends to choose candidates the party powerful and entrenched favor. And by the way, how much more sensible, affordable and expansive if we just had one national primary, where the five top candidates, regardless of party, made it to the final ballot.
Now that would shake things up!



The General Election



It's even more egregious and undemocratic when it comes to the general election. We don't have a one-person-one vote whichever candidate wins the most votes becomes President election. That's why in 2000 Democratic candidate Al Gore won the popular vote – he got the most votes from across America – but lost the election. And that's without the Florida delegate challenge issue. The problem is that we still have the Electoral College – an outdated and disenfranchising way of electing a president, set up for a different time and very different concerns. Like the primaries, each state is awarded a certain, but not equal, number of delegates, who are then awarded to whichever candidate wins the most votes.




To start with, because of how Electoral College votes are awarded to the states, they don't balance out so that the votes are weighted according to a state's population. So for example, the eleven U.S. states with the smallest populations have a combined population just 60% the size of Florida , America 's fourth most populous state. Yet these eleven states have 37% more Electoral College votes than Florida does. Thus the system automatically weakens the value of an individual vote in the state of Florida relative to a vote in the less populated states. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.




The Electoral College is not just undemocratic in the way it assigns delegates to the states, it's also unrepresentative in how those delegates are awarded to a candidate. Although we're theoretically voting as a nation, we are actually voting by state, and each state awards all the delegates to whichever candidate has the most votes. It's not proportional. So if 51% of California votes Democrat and 49% votes Republican the Democrat takes all the delegates. It's absurd in the modern age, when we can tally the number of hits by demographic status on an internet site that we still have the 220 year old Electoral College rather than a direct nationwide election for President.




While it sounds nice to say every vote matters, because of this winner takes all delegates in a state, leaders in both major parties and in both of their candidate's campaigns know that certain states don't matter to their candidate. For example, the Republicans know they can't win California for President. It hasn't happened since 1988. As a result, the Republicans typically spend almost no money or effort trying to win voters in California because they know the state is going to fall Democratic. In fact, in the last election the Republicans didn't even contest the state. So that means even if 45% of the voters vote Republican, their votes essentially do not count. They can't be offset against votes from New York , or Florida or Michigan . The same is true in those states. It's one of the reasons campaigns focus on a handful of major states to win the election.




Did you know that a candidate can win the presidential election simply winning a simple majority (and therefore all the delegates) in only 11 states? If a candidate were to win just 51% of the votes in the 11 states with the biggest number of Electoral College votes, he or she would become President, even if every single person in the other 39 states voted for another candidate. That means you could win the Presidency even if you had millions fewer votes than another candidate, as long as you won the majority of votes in about one fifth of the right states. That's crazy. It's also un-democratic, and responsible for the overly lengthy, expensive, and complicated way campaigns are run…a process that prioritizes key states with large delegate counts, makes it almost impossible for third party candidates to win, and marginalizes millions of voters -- making them second class to the voters in the key states.




The United States of America in the year 2008 should have a single direct election for President in which each vote is counted equally, regardless of state, there are no Electoral College votes, and the winner of the election is the candidate who wins the most votes from across America . That's right…just a pure one person one vote add them all up and the person with a majority wins.