Skipping Election Day? Your 1 vote counts

Larry Kane
November 02, 2018 - 8:30 pm
Election Day

John Gibbins/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS/Sipa USA

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Election Day is Tuesday. The voices of the candidates will finally dim and a hush will fall over the political landscape.

The people get the power — if you're a voter, Tuesday is your day. But, sadly, many Americans will stay home. The U.S. ranks 28th in voter turnout of all the industrialized nations in the world. 

So do you have an excuse for not voting on Tuesday? Before you decide, consider these facts: In 2000, George W. Bush beat Al Gore by 537 votes in Florida, sending the recount to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Fast forward to 2016, when only 58 percent of eligible voters actually voted. That's pretty high for our country, sadly. School board elections, however, get an average of 10 percent of voters to elect people who set your taxes and impact the education of millions of children.

The reality is that one vote does count. 

One vote in Congress authorized the draft, the selective service system. The House impeached President Andrew Johnson, who took over after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and one vote in the trial in the Senate saved him from being removed as president.

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And there are odd moments in our voting history. In 1891, an exact tie deadlocked a race for the state House in Indiana. It was decided by a 200-yard foot race. The leader slipped and fell yards from the finish line.

In 1994, in a Wyoming Assembly race, two candidates were tied at 1,941 votes. The governor settled it by drawing a Ping-Pong ball from his cowboy hat. 

In a county commission contest in Las Vegas 2002, a dead heat forced a Las Vegas kind of finish: The winner was determined by a drawing of cards. It was close again. A jack of diamonds beat a jack of spades. 

And in 1960, one vote per polling station would have allowed Richard Nixon to defeat John F. Kennedy. 

The ramifications of missing votes are represented in hundreds of close elections, and also on decisions on the legislative side. 

We are near the finish line of one of the most emotionally agonizing election campaigns in our history. Americans might be embarrassed that there are 27 countries that vote in higher percentages than we do. It's also a shame considering that hundreds of thousands of Americas saved our country and our right to vote by paying the ultimate sacrifice in places like Iwo Jima and the beaches of France. 

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The truth is clear: If we didn't get involved in World War II, chances are we wouldn't be living now in the greatest democracy in history. Our rights as citizens — including the right to vote — were paid for with courage, honor, and blood. Our extraordinary freedoms were guaranteed by those sacrifices. 

So what are you going to do?

You have a right to vote, but no obligation to do so. It really comes down to priorities. Use the power given to you, or cede your power. If your side loses, you may regret the outcome.

I can tell you this: Voting feels good. It feels good because you are fulfilling the dreams of freedom that allow citizens to make the choices. Most of you know that, but some of you have to understand that the most important job of a freedom-loving person is to exercise your right to make the choice. All the money in the world, all the super PACs and lobbyists have much less power than the power of the collective electorate.

I would hope you make the right decision — not on the candidate or parties, but on the wonderful choice you have to vote.

In the old days, in certain wards of Philadelphia, the professional electioneers would say, "Vote early and vote often." Of course, they were only kidding. But legend says they were not.

In our era, you only get one vote, and it can go a long way.

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This is part one in a three-part series by KYW Newsradio Special Contributor Larry Kane.