There is a frequent refrain that we need to vote! That this election is so important! Every single vote is going to count!
America is not a democracy. Anyone who says it is didn't pay attention in their seventh grade Constitution class. America has been carefully structured to avoid being a democracy. America is a Representative Democratic Republic.
One of the most controversial areas this shows through is in our Presidential Elections.
The popular vote does not count.
You may think that you are making a difference, but unless you live in a very small set of states your vote does not matter.
The president is not chosen by the popular vote of the American people, he is chosen by the votes of the members of the Electoral College.
Believe it or not this is actually a good thing.
In the infamous Bush vs. Gore election, Gore won the popular vote, however Bush won the electoral college vote and became the President. This upsets many people, however it shows that the system worked exactly as it was supposed to.
Allow me to explain in a little bit more detail, when the United States was founded it was founded with a weak federal government, and was primarily more of an alliance of the states. This presented some problems with how representation of the states in the federal government would function. The larger states obviously felt that they deserved a greater say, and the smaller states felt that focusing only on population would make it so that the smaller states were not truly getting meaningful representation. The system that eventually emerged was the House of Representatives wherein representation would be proportional to population and the Senate in which every state would get equivalent representation. This meant that small states would actually be overrepresented, but it guaranteed that they would receive meaningful representation.
This phrase I've used a couple of times "meaningful representation" is the key to the reason the electoral college is important. With 80.7% of the United States Population living in urban areas according to the most recent census, there has been a gradual condensing of people. If every single person's vote was counted equally, people in rural areas would not receive meaningful representation. Candidates would not worry about the few votes in small states or rural areas because they could make it up in much larger urban centers. If we want to try to ensure that we get the candidate that best represents the views of American Citizens then the electoral college must remain.
However, this does mean that if you do not live in a swing state, your vote probably doesn't matter. Your state has already decided where its electors are going to go. Please do still vote! There are important down ballot races. However, no matter which candidate you vote for, it probably won't matter.