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.
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: Countmore.org 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:
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!
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.