• Sometimes that single vote does make a difference

ballotboxWell, did you do it?

Did you vote yet?

No? The polls are open until 9 o’clock tonight, many conclusions still in doubt no matter how many pronouncements are made on TV based on early returns, crystal balls and wild guesses.

If you don’t cast your vote, please don’t whine about whoever holds the White House for the next four years. He’ll have the toughest job in the world, and all the effort you had to exert was to pull a lever. Guess who deserves more respect no matter your political leanings?

Even though some prognosticators say this election may be a little closer than pollsters think, I hear people saying that an individual’s vote doesn’t make a difference. Really? History shows that not to be the case, especially considering that more than the presidency is at stake today.

There are many instances across the country of single votes affecting local, small-town races in which the voting pool is small. Sometimes the impact is much wider.

For example, a Pennsylvania election some decades ago ended in a tie for one district seat which, in turn, left the state House of Representatives evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. In the ensuing six months, during which a flood of appeals and recounts and a district runoff were held, no one had the individual character to cross party lines to vote on proposed legislation, so literally nothing was done by the state legislature.

In Washington state, an even split of House seats between the two major parties essentially stalled any meaningful progress in the state legislature because committee chairmen and the two co-speakers of the House wound up with what amounted to veto power over pending legislation.

If that sort of thing doesn’t scare you, let me once again share a personal experience that might convince you of the value of a single vote.

More than four decades ago I was editing a newspaper in Pennsylvania and writing a political column as well. I had used a lot of column inches commenting on some rather contentious issues in one particular county in our coverage area.

In that locale, a board of commissioners made up of the top three vote-getters ran the county. It was easy to get a write-in vote since the rural county still was using paper ballots. When the votes on that particular election day were tallied, yours truly was in fourth place despite not even being a candidate. The third-place finisher, who got only one more vote than I did, was a veteran county commissioner in very fragile health.

“Well, young man,” said the top vote-getter, “if Ward doesn’t live out his term you might have to take office and put your ideas where your mouth has been.”

I vigorously toasted the health of the No. 3 vote-getter and crossed my fingers. Fortune smiled, and he still was on duty when I left for a job in another state the following year.

The first time I shared that story was a couple of years ago before election day. My conclusion then was the same as it is today. If none of these election horrors convinces you to vote today, how about this practical reason: We all owe a vote every election day to those who died on battlefields, on the seas and in the air to preserve the American system.

Now, if you didn’t vote before you read this, get off your duffs and go do it. If none of the reasons I’ve mentioned convinces you, at least you’ll make yourself feel virtuous. Whatever it takes.

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About Bill Dowd

Webmaster/social media coordinator for the Southern Rensselaer County NY Rotary Club.

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