Some Thoughts on the Upcoming Recounts in Three Battleground States

Author’s Note: I took a momentary break from posting about math and education issues to discuss some threats facing the political system in the United States. I work hard to keep this blog apolitical, but no matter which party or ideology you subscribe to, the problems discussed below should concern you.


The upcoming recount in Wisconsin along with potential recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania may or may not change anything, and while plenty of people on all sides are probably just ready to move past this horrible election, this is something that needs to be done. When one candidate–any candidate–wins the popular vote by a decisive margin of over two million votes and growing but still manages to lose the election, the situation is worth investigating–especially when exit polls in those battleground states suggest many people may have voted differently than what the results showed.

Of course, even if the results hold, the real issue here lies with the electoral college. Now, I know the electoral college was founded to prevent one small, population-heavy area choosing a president that all Americans, many in different areas with different needs, would then be forced to live with. (You probably have heard the horror of how California would choose every president if the electoral college were abolished.) The electoral college was supposed to give all states a proportional say in choosing the nation’s leader. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, we have ended up with exactly what we were trying to avoid–a few states picking the president. Our nation is so polarized that only a few states are ever toss-ups, and those so-called “battleground states” end up deciding every election.

For example, let’s say you are a Vermont voter like me. Hillary Clinton won Vermont by 61%. Of course, she only needed 51% to take all of Vermont’s electoral votes, so for 10% of voters, their vote for Hillary didn’t really make a difference. Of course, if you voted for Donald Trump or anyone else in Vermont, it was even worse; your vote essentially got ignored because Clinton took all the electoral votes. This same thing is happening in every state.

Of course, this is NOT an argument for not voting. If fewer people voted the problem would be even worse. But the fact that some people’s votes are not counting as much as those of other people in other places should concern everyone who loves democracy. So regardless of what happens in the recount, we should seize this opportunity to investigate how we can improve our electoral system to insure that every voter gets an equal say in choosing the nation’s leader (this also means examining our voting rights laws, which have taken a hit in recent years, leading to questionable voter purges). It should be obvious now that the very future of our society depends on solving these problems.

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My name is Erin Milne, and I am a mathematics student and teacher. I earned my master's in math from the University of Vermont, and I received my undergraduate education from Lyndon State College. My goal for this blog is to make mathematics interesting, useful, and non-frightening, as well as to inspire other low-income and first-generation students to continue their education. I hope this blog will be helpful, inspiring, and thought-provoking for high school and college students facing the same challenges that I have faced.

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