Want Your Vote to Count? Think Local. Or Move to Wyoming.
For all you Dallasites who skip the midterm elections in favor of the presidential races, you might reconsider that strategy: For Texans, your vote in national and even state races is all but symbolic.It's local issues where your ballot will really count.
According to financial analysts at WalletHub, Texas is ranked near the bottom on a list of most empowered voters in each state. A local elections such as the Denton city ordinance to ban fracking is an issue in which Denton voters are given a substantial amount of power to determine what happens in their city.
Casting your vote for senators, presidents, and governors in Texas is much more symbolic than numerically meaningful. Yet every Denton ballot cast for or against a fracking ban will have significant repercussions throughout the city.
Dr. Tom Hayes, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut who contributed to WalletHub's report, says that for an issue like Denton's, local voters could have ripple-effect power. Their vote could, in turn, influence later votes on similar issues.
"I think that in a state that has embraced fracking, where there's a lot of people that are negatively affected by that, on a local level they can change that," he says. "And you never know how that might affect them later on a state or national level. One state can sometimes change the direction of policy. So in this local election in Texas, it might change the direction of fracking policy."
Jill Gonzalez, an analyst with WalletHub, says voter empowerment largely centers on population. In Senate races, for example, two senators in Wyoming represent just around 250,000 people each, compared to the two Texas senators who represent around 13 million Texans each. And in presidential elections, 500,000 Wyoming voters can determine their states' vote, compared with 26 million Texas voters. By those numbers, each individual Texans' vote means far less than that of the Wyoming voter.
"We took a close look at this, because of the election and because public dissatisfaction with the government right now is at record highs," Gonzalez says. "I think that it's easy for voters, especially in large states like Texas, to be discouraged to vote."
Still, that's no reason to abstain from voting, as long as voters realize that, mathematically, their vote is much more meaningful on a local level. "In local elections, often turnout is really low, especially in a midterm year," says Hayes. "So you can imagine if less than 20 percent of people turn out, that would make your vote count more. It really depends on where you live, and what the issues are."
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