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Cover Story

Ten reasons to vote this year ... or not

Photo: Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock.com, License: N/A

Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Photo by Jeffrey Wright, License: N/A

Photo by Jeffrey Wright

Texas Legislature Representative Joaquín Castro, currently running for U.S. Congress, rallies students at a recent "Debate Night" event at Northwest Vista Community College.



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"Is it ignorance or apathy / I forget these lessons taught to me / Some say life isn't fair / Hey I don't know and I don't care."
— Jimmy Buffett

Of course you can't vote in the upcoming elections. Halo 4 goes on sale Nov. 6.

Besides, why bother?

According to the electoral "return on investment" calculus published by Nate Silver of NY Times blog FiveThirtyEight, Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney enjoys a 99.7 percent probability of winning Texas. (Although it's worth noting that incumbent President Barack Obama won Bexar County in 2008.) In our winner-take-all Electoral College system, Romney's virtually guaranteed our state's 38 electoral votes. Electoral ROI defines, "The relative likelihood that an individual voter would determine the Electoral College winner." The relative ROI value in Texas is less than 0.1, versus, say 8.6 in Ohio.

With such paltry return on your ballot investment, why would you spend your time, gasoline, or brainpower on voting, whether you are Republican, Democrat, minor party, or independent?

It has been long argued that, due to the Electoral College system, this dynamic drives down voter participation, especially in highly partisan states. According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, a generic Republican presidential candidate in Texas should receive 10 percentage points more votes than the national average. (Utah and Wyoming, at +R20, are the reddest states in the union; Texas stands among only 12 states with a double-digit CPVI among 29 red states overall.)

Go figure, Texas has among the lowest voter turnout rates in the United States. And Bexar County rates are even lower than the state average. In the last presidential electoral cycle in 2008, voter turnout in Texas reached 59.5 percent of registered voters. in Bexar, the proportion was 56.5 percent. Even in the hotly contested 2000 Bush-Gore race, in which Texas Gov. George W. Bush led the Republican ticket, voter turnout in Texas was a mere 51.8 percent; in Bexar it was 47.3 percent — less than half. (Votes cast as a proportion of registered voters is a less accurate measure than votes cast versus eligible voters, however.)

Electoral apathy might come as kind of a surprise given the fact that Texans generally consider themselves a patriotic bunch. Voting is like eating apple pies or chopping down cherry trees. Anyone who has been through a public education system in any state in the nation has been prevailed upon again and again to cherish their right to vote: it's a freedom, a right, a civic duty. It is why, "In a democracy, people get the government they deserve." Voting should matter in the Lone Star State: In 1845, after the administration of President James Polk stole it fair and square from Mexico, Texas was admitted to the United States by just one vote.

In fact, Texans are not only not voting, too many are not even bothering to register. The number of registered voters in Bexar County totaled 871,042 in the 2000 presidential elections. Even with this year's heated presidential contest and a barrage of both partisan and nonpartisan registration campaigns, the number only ticked up to 920,267 as of press time, a scant 6 percent increase between the 2000 and 2012 presidential elections. By contrast, during nearly the same time period, July 2000 to July 2011, the population of Bexar County exploded by 26 percent from 1.40 million to 1.76 million, according to Census Bureau midyear estimates. (The July 2011 figure is the most recent available.)

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