Just a simple reflection on what history looks like. And why your vote is important.
Why every available vote is important.
For you. For us. For them. For the world. For our lives.
First, the numbers – bear with me, I’ll only do the relevant math:
Year Popular vote
(Statistics courtesy of Dave Leip’s Atlas of Presidential Elections, an easy to use and endlessly fascinating website of all things electoral. It is a non-partisan, purely historical site).
The difference between 1948 and 1952 was 12,958,407, an incredible increase of 26.56%. (The population had increased by about 7.6% -- remember that for later). From there, the total rises fairly steadily from the fifties through 1984, growing at a rate of roughly 5% per year.
Only twice in the past forty years has the U.S. experienced a dip in the total popular vote from one presidential election to the next. The 1988 total was 1,058,547 less than the total in 1984, a drop of about 1.14%. Four years later was the first election to break the 100 million mark, but the ’96 election (famously waged between Kang and Kodos on television) saw another dip. This time, the decline was 8,148,522, a tiny bit above 7.8% (7.8033 to be exact), almost 7 times worse than the previous dip. There were just under a million votes more cast in 2000 than 1992.
And then, between 2000 and 2004, we saw the most dramatic increase in the American presidential election in the past 40 years. 16,876,073 more votes were cast in Bush v. Kerry than Bush v. Gore, an increase of almost 16%. We don’t have official census figures for 2000 and 2004 yet, but one website (sited below) has projections that put the increase in population between 2.4% and 4.3%. That means that even the percentage increase from 2000 to 2004 is smaller than the landmark 1948-1952 comparison (16 to 26 percent), it’s about equal when you compare that increase to the increase one would expect from the increase in population as a whole.
You can see from the following numbers that the population has generally been growing a bit faster than the number of voters in presidential elections.
(Source: http://www.mnforsustain.org/...: the 2004 and 2008 numbers for population are projected).
Year Popular vote Population
1948 48793535 146,631,000
1952 61751942 157,773,000
1956 62021328 168,903,000
1960 68832482 180,671,000
1964 70639284 191,889,000
1968 73199998 200,706,000
1972 77744027 209,896,000
1976 81531584 218,035,000
1980 86509678 227,225,000
1984 92653233 235,825,000
1988 91594686 244,499,000
1992 104423923 254,995,000
1996 96275401 265,190,000
2000 105417475 281,422,000
2004 122293548 285,266,000
2008 ?? 295,009,000
I include the total population (as opposed to number of registered voters) because I’m trying to make a point about how truly "democratic" our voting system is in terms of enfranchisement. We exclude children and felons from being eligible, but they are still considered part of our country and it is our responsibility as voting citizens to care for them and be sure they are guaranteed other rights that are guaranteed by our laws. There are those who do not care to vote or unable to register for other reasons, but they are citizens of this country who retain the right to not vote.
What will the number be in 2008 where our population is hovering right around the 300 million mark?
Will we, as a nation, be able to cast more votes than any other nation in history? Might this November 4 not be the greatest exercise in representative democracy ever achieved by human civilization just in terms of pure numbers?
Might we not also prove to ourselves as a nation and to the world that it is even possible that we could get HALF of our ENTIRE population to vote? 150 million people? That would require an increase of about 22.5%, but as we’ve seen in the past, such an increase is not impossible. It’s a mistake to assume that early voting patterns are any solid indication of overall popular vote increase (since early voting has never been as available as during this election), but in many states early voting is up WELL above 22.5% from last election.
Now, here are some more stats courtesy of Dave Leip.
Top ten vote-getters in U.S. Presidential history:
Candidate Year Votes
George W. Bush 2004 62,040,610
John Kerry 2004 59,028,439
Ronald Reagan 1984 54,455,472
Al Gore 2000 51,003,926
George W. Bush 2000 50,460,110
George H.W. Bush 1988 48,886,597
Bill Clinton 1996 47,400,125
Richard Nixon 1972 47,168,170
Bill Clinton 1992 44,909,806
Ronald Reagan 1980 43,903,230
If the election population rises at the SAME RATE as it did from 2000 to 2004, that will mean an increase of 19,566,968, bringing the total number of votes to 141,860,515.
Being generous to McCain (who is almost surely going to lose the popular vote) and splitting that number 51-48 (granting 1% to "others," as has happened in the last two elections), means that the popular vote might look something like this:
So, that’s my challenge: can we do it?
Can these two men earn more votes than any two men in the history of our country?
Will Barack Obama earn more votes than any person ever? A person of African descent raised by a single mother and white grandparents?
Will John McCain, a former prisoner-of-war, son and grandson of military heroes, earn more votes than any Republican in history?
Don’t you want to be a part of the biggest election in history?
Don’t you want to show the world that in spite of our flaws and disagreements, Americans can exercise their right to vote in greater numbers than ever before?
And tell everyone you know to vote.
You have many options. Be part of it. Join us.
Your vote matters because OUR vote matters.