VAG: Your Advanced Guide to Voting the Hell Out of 2012

We covered Voting 101 with our first installment of Voting: an Autostraddle Guide (which has been christened VAG.) But the world of US voting is ever-changing and, frankly, fairly complicated. Here’s a few more resources and fun facts about voting in the US Presidential Election. Remember, vote with your VAG. You’ll be glad you did.


Where Does Your Vote Count the Most?

Let’s have a crash course in swing states and the Electoral College, which is like actually Voting 601. Basically, not all states are created equal. The United States has chosen half-way between having only Congress vote for President (read: easy to do, but not very democratic) and election by popular vote (read: really a bummer to count.) The product is the Electoral College, a process by which we aren’t really electing the President, we’re electing the electors of the President. I know it sounds a little like Googling Google to Google, but go with me here:

There are 538 total electors in the Electoral College, and a candidate needs a majority of 270 to become President. The amount of electors in your state is based on Congressional delegation: you get two electors per Senator, and one for every Congressman. And because that is based on population, more densely populated states are worth more. Think of this like a carnival game: Obama throws a dart and gets New York, worth 31 points. Romney throws a dart and hits Virginia (which I really hope doesn’t happen – I’ll tell you why in a minute.) BAM! Worth 13 points. This means that candidates have to be strategic about where they’re campaigning, because when you convince a majority in the state you get the whole kit and caboodle (with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, the rogues who can split their Electoral Votes.) Winning New York could be a lot more important than, say, winning Utah (5 electoral votes) depending on your strategy.

You can really predict which way certain states are going to go. For instance, New York is almost definitely going to “go blue” and deliver their 31 electoral votes to Camp Obama. They usually do, and by a pretty large margin. But some states are a little bit harder to call; either they have historically gone to either side by a pretty small margin, with one candidate just squeaking ahead of the other, or they’re polling at fairly neck-and-neck numbers. Since these states, like Tila Tequila, could swing either way, they’re called “Swing States.” And depending on the candidates’ strategy and the amount of Electoral Votes each state has, they could be very important.

To get this man elected, know where your vote counts the most. via

But how can you know where your vote will count most? Even though New York has 31 Electoral Votes, why is it your vote could count more in Virginia? A commenter on the first installment of VAG left this gem of a resource: lets you know, based on number of electoral votes and whether or not your state is a swing state, where your vote would count the most. And for some of us, this isn’t a theoretical game. UNIVERSITY STUDENTS! LISTEN UP! You have the unique ability to potentially chose between two states this November. You can register in the state where you go to school, or you can register back home. Use this website to figure out where your vote will count more.

Who Exactly Is Affected By Recently Passed Voter Laws?

Questions came up in the comments on the last VAG about voter ID laws and how they disenfranchise voters. Whether it’s because voters can’t take off work to walk a bajillion miles (because they don’t have a car) to the place where they can get their ID or because the particular required form of ID is cost prohibitive, voter ID laws can really be a poll tax in disguise. Poll taxes are illegal in the US because that’s a dick move and super classist. And even if you, personally, can get the required ID, a lot of mustache-twirling policy makers are betting on you not knowing you need one. The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, a non-partisan law center, let’s us know how many of us may need something different at the polling place this year that we didn’t need last time around with this horrifying map:

See? All the red states should check to make sure. via The Brennan Center.

The Brennan Center also has a complete, up-to-date list of the voter legislation introduced and passed since 2011. If your state is red in the above map, check the list.

Have a Smart Phone?  Register to Vote!

via Huffington Post

In an interesting twist, there are now more places you can register to vote! A Virgin America flight to D.C. is now one of those places, and you can register from your phone.  Simply scan the QR Code from the “Make a Difference” menu on the in-flight screen, and your vote can make a difference in November. While it might seem like a scam to get customers to buy in-flight WiFi, the voting registration is actually still available when you touch down at your destination, making it just plain (or plane, har har) awesome. Virgin America launched this feature in partnership with Rock the Vote and in celebration of their new San Francisco to D.C. non-stop service.

Not flying? No problem! Rock The Vote has a new mobile app that will let you fill out a voter registration form on your phone, send it to yourself, print it out, and send it to your state’s election office. Which makes them badass, in my opinion. Thank you, Rock the Vote. You have just made this so much easier. And it’s in direct response to the new voter ID craze that’s sweeping the nation. “We thought, OK, you want to make it harder for people to register? Well, we’ll take this effort to the sky,” said Amanda MacNaughton, co-founder of PromoJam (the Rock the Vote partner responsible for the QR code, the mobile website and these effing amazing QR tee shirts,) “We’ll create voter registration on the phone and take it to young people on the device where they use it the most.”

In conclusion, register to vote you excellent queer people! Vote with your VAG and may all your electoral dreams come true.

via Rock the Vote

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. Great work Ali! I’ll pass this on as well.

    One of the things I hate about living in Alaska is that my vote rarely counts for anything.

    Except for that one time when I helped create the monster known as Sarah Palin. Oops.

      • It was an accident I swear! I voted for her in the primary simply as a means to get rid of then Governor Frank Murkowski. Then I voted for the Democrat in the actual election, but it was too late and we had Governor Palin. Fuck.

  2. So, I’m registered to vote in Michigan, but I have an Indiana driver’s license, and I’m moving to Wisconsin tomorrow. Where would I vote? I haz confused

    • Okay, first, figure out where you want to vote. Remember, absentee ballots are a thing. So figure out where your ideal choice would be. Then check the voter ID laws/residency requirement for that state. Then register to vote in that state. You have to be a resident of a state to vote in it, but if you’re moving for school, that still leaves your permanent address some place else. You may have options or you may have to vote in Wisconsin, it depends on your situation. Voting can sometimes be confusing, but just take it one step at a time and go through all those regulations. When it doubt, call the Election Office and ask. :0)

      • Thanks! I checked and Wisconsin is a serious swing state, so I’m going to register there. These articles are so helpful!

  3. This was actually pretty helpful. I go to college in Chicago but I’m from St. Louis, MO and I’ve been trying to figure out how to be able to vote in Chicago, because I felt like it would be easier. But, seeing that the Missouri margin of victory was 0.13% and we were a red state, I’ll vote in MO. Now I just have to register.

  4. And this is why I hate that I will be turning 18 like 2 weeks after the election. Oh and on Thanksgiving, so awkward family holiday dinner is also awkward family holiday birthday dinner, for my 18th. Oh the joy!

    • Red means that legislation was introduced, but it may not have passed or it may not have been passed YET. Either way, bully for you for checking! You make my heart sing.

      • I checked further, all voter registration bills introduced into the Oregon legislature in 2011 and 2012 failed (and not all of them were bad, some were to make it easier to register)

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  6. YESYESYES! Thank you so much for commenting on the Voter ID laws. This topic are not only a pet topic of Rachel Maddow’s, it is also frightening and therefore imperative that the voters understand what it is (and how they can get around it in time!).

  7. I would be crazy-encouraging everyone I know to register to vote, but it turns out that most of the students on my campus are uber-conservative. Even though this is New York and therefore pretty darned blue, I think I won’t be encouraging some of the people I know to do their civic duty, if it’s all the same.

    This may or may not make me a bad person.

  8. Real talk – everyone, everyone, EVERYONE should vote. It makes me so sad when people complain about the way things are in this country, but they’re too “disillusioned” or don’t like either of the major candidates to actually vote. Because that is what you can do! Not everyone can run for public office or go lobby in Washington or pay to support advocacy groups, but EVERYONE can vote. And if you live in California, in about a month you’ll be able to register entirely online, no paperwork necessary. So that’s nifty!

    And on a more partisan note, it’s especially bad when there are liberals who don’t agree with Obama on every issue and so aren’t going to vote for him. If you’re a young person or member of a minority and you just don’t vote, it’s pretty much the equivalent of voting Republican. As Stephen Colbert put it: “Yes, Obama duped young people by not doing every single things they want. So now, they’ll all vote Republican. It’s like when I want some bread, I won’t settle for half a loaf. Instead, I will have a muffin made of broken glass.”


  9. (I am about to ask a question, key word: question therefore I am uninformed and want legitimate feedback)
    why does anyone from the lgbt but more importantly anyone female support Obama? (I mean romneys no prize either but…) prop 8 happened under Obama .. he can talk all he wants about his “personal views” of support but he has done absolutely nothing for the gay community. we still cant have unions in most states and 15% of unemployment rates are women. also under the obama administration they attempted to pass shryia (probaby spelled wrong but the islamic laws that keep women submissive and allow their husbands to beat and kill them) as a religious observance in america. essentially saying its okay its their religion…as well as a book written by this guy (cant think of his name) who went undercover in the white house and what he reported was that women’s roles in the white house administration were belittled and women were kept out of important meetings.
    all signs point to a sexist administration with no intention on changing anything for us right now politics are just using homosexuality as a political tool, not because anyone cares about us. I want to think I am being misinformed but it doesnt seem like it. I welcome feedback to this

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