Proficiency in basic math may not be universal among adults living in the United States, but it should be relatively close. Despite this fact, it continues to amaze me how few people question or challenge elected officials who claim to have a mandate from the people despite never actually winning a majority of the votes. I know what you may be thinking: that elected officials, by definition, have won a majority of the votes cast, otherwise they would not be in office. Okay, hold that thought while I explain why I believe most elected officials should not claim such a mandate.
Start with voter turnout in ANY election. In local elections around the country voter turnout can be as low as ten to fifteen percent. Even in presidential elections we are lucky to get anywhere near sixty percent—great. Let us focus on the big ticket race, the presidency. If sixty percent of eligible voters vote in the election that means forty percent did not vote for any candidate. Now, if the winner of the election wins with fifty-five percent of all votes cast (to be generous) he or she gets the job with a majority of the vote, right? I get that, but that’s not my point. I’m saying they can’t claim to represent a majority of the people. In my estimation the winner of the election only had around thirty-three out of every one-hundred votes possible if you base your analysis on all eligible voters. In defense of my point of view you can’t discount the significance of non-voters with the argument that they didn’t vote so they don’t count. Not voting is a choice in most cases, similar to voting “none of the above.” I also don’t accept the argument that those who do vote somehow represent those who do not (usually based on surveys of non-voters), therefore the results of the election are representative of the people. If that argument had any validity we should just replace elections with some representative sample from a survey and save everybody a lot of time and money. In my estimation, everybody that wins an election should be wary of hubris, and assume their seats with a measure of humility. I would like to know what you think about my argument as it is played out here. Does it hold water?