The dollar value of your vote

Mike Bohling is an outdoor enthusiast who has lived and worked in Carson City since 1992.

From what spotty information I’ve been able to gather, it is estimated $6 billion to $8 billion will be spent on the 2012 election campaigns at all levels.

In the presidential campaign alone, it’s estimated the Obama and Romney campaigns will each spend about $800 million. This is just the campaigns, and does not include spending by special interest groups, PACs and SuperPACs, which will push the totals far, far higher thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

Here’s where things get interesting.

There are about 150 million registered voters in the U.S. At $6 billion in spending, we’re talking $40 per vote. Gallup’s daily tracking poll shows the number of undecided voters in the presidential race hovering between six and eight percent, so we’re looking at approximately nine to 12-million undecided voters in the 2012 presidential election. It is to these “undecided voters” that the $6 billion is directed.

The majority of dollars will be spent in eight swing states (populations in millions noted in parenthesis, followed by percent of U.S. population), including Colorado (5.0/1.61), Florida (18.8/6.02), Iowa (3.0/.97), New Hampshire (1.3/.42), Nevada (2.7/.86), Ohio (11.5/3.69), Virginia (8.0/2.56) and Wisconsin (5.7/1.82), giving this group of states a total population of approximately 56 million.

Applying the 50 percent “registered voter rate” we see in the general U.S. population, this gives us roughly 28 million registered voters in the swing states. Applying the six to eight percent “undecided” factor gives us somewhere between 1.62 and 2.24 million undecided voters in these states. These voters will decide the presidential election.

Now, let’s attach a dollar amount to each of these undecided votes. Using what I believe to be a modest figure, let’s say $4 billion will be spent on the presidential election attempting to sway undecided swing-state voters. That comes out to between $1,785 and $2,469 per vote.

Consider this, and allow it to sink in when contemplating the figures above: Over the past week, I’ve asked about 40 friends and acquaintances, people from all walks and political persuasions, how much money they’ve contributed toward local, state and national elections this year. The grand total was one contributor who gave $25 for a local election.

Ask yourself and your friends the same question and see if it has an impact on how you feel about campaign spending in America today. Elected offices are being purchased in this country, and it ain’t by you and me.

It all boils down to this: If you think your vote is worthless, think again. On a national scale, it’s already worth $40. If you live in a swing state like Nevada, it’s worth up to $2,469. You wouldn’t flush $2,469 down the toilet, would you? A very small handful of people put a very high price tag on your vote. They’re betting they can buy it because you are “too uninformed” to keep it and use it wisely, and they’re betting a lot.