American Voice 2004: Can one vote make a difference?

Date: 1 Jun 2004 | posted in: From the Desk of David Morris, The Public Good | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Q.   More than 100 million people are going to cast ballots this November. Can one vote make a difference?


You betcha. American history is littered with examples of close elections, some of which changed the nation’s future.

If Richard Nixon had gained 1 more vote per precinct in Illinois in 1960 he would have defeated John Kennedy. In 1948 Lyndon B. Johnson became a U.S. Senator by one vote. In 1994 Sam Gejdenson won re-election to his House seat in Connecticut by 21 votes out of 186,071 cast.

And how about this one for a close vote that changed history? In 1911 California women gained the right to vote in a referendum the victory margin of which was just one vote per voting precinct.

For those for whom the 2000 election was not forever seared into your memories, titanic fights about the right to vote and the right to have one’s vote counted went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. George Bush won Florida’s 25 electoral votes (see electoral college Q&A) and therefore the election by 547 out of some 6 million votes counted (even more votes were cast and not counted)!

Yes indeed, voting matters. And in any event, win, lose or draw (yes, there have been a number of ties in election history) you are carrying out one of the key obligations of citizenship. Democracies wither when people stop participating.



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David Morris

David Morris is co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and currently ILSR's distinguished fellow. His five non-fiction books range from an analysis of Chilean development to the future of electric power to the transformation of cities and neighborhoods.  For 14 years he was a regular columnist for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. His essays on public policy have appeared in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, Washington PostSalonAlternetCommon Dreams, and the Huffington Post.