Does Your Vote REALLY Count?

Many people look at elections and doubt that their one, little vote really amounts to much of anything. This feeling causes many to question why they should bother to vote at all. Does your vote matter? And can you materially alter the outcome of an election by staying home? The answer to both of these is a resounding yes.

Over the past decade or so, major elections have repeatedly come down to near even-Steven results. Elections have been decided by as few as a couple of hundred votes or even less. Senators, members of the House of Representatives, even Governors have taken office by a scant margin of votes. But even moreso are elections down ticket being decided by bare majorities. State offices, local city offices, even elections for wardmen and committemen are turning on tiny numbers of final votes.

Not to discount the big election, but the latter is where your vote really matters. After all, local elections are just as important for their immediate impact on your lives as the big ones.

Let’s take a look at some “big” elections that came down to a small handful of votes. The Minnesota race for Senate in 2008, for instance, was infamously close. When Election Day was done that November, challenging candidate, Democrat Al Franken, had “lost” to incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman by only 215 votes. This spurred a recount after which Franked was leading by 225. Franken was awarded the election even though there was massive Democrat vote fraud.

If a few more people on either side had decided to turn out to vote months of uncertainty, millions in expenses for legal challenges and recounts, and much gnashing of teeth could have been spared the State of Minnesota.

Who can forget the gutwrenching and drawn out presidential election in 2000? Democrat and incumbent Vice President Al Gore had barely won the popular vote nationally over Republican George W. Bush, but it came down to Florida and its Electoral College votes. Bush beat Gore by only a few thousand votes, but recount after recount, was held costing the state millions and throwing the whole country into doubt as to who would be its next president. Again if only a few hundred more voters had come out to vote in 2000 for one side or the other all the angst would have been avoided.

As mentioned, it isn’t just the big elections that are affected by voters deciding not to bother. In fact, local elections are even more prone to down-to-the-wire results. In Ohio in 2010, for instance, the Lakeview Local School tax levy was passed by just two votes!

In another nail biter, after an official recount in the 2010 election, Republican King Banaian won election to the Minnesota State House of Representatives by only 13 votes.

In my years of watching local elections for town council, or mayorships, I’ve seen elections commonly come down to 3, 4, 10, or 20 votes. These elections could have been greatly changed by larger participation by voters, but even so, these close margins show that every vote counts.

So, don’t feel that your vote is meaningless in the larger scheme of things. While there will certainly be margins of victory that your one vote would not change, there are many, many more in which you personally could have had a major influence with your one vote. Don’t stay home. You could be the difference between a winner and a loser for your party, your ideology, even your pocketbook on tax levies. Go register and go vote. Don’t let this important duty escape your attention.