"Take it from me - every vote counts." - Al Gore
I dare anyone to look me in the eye and tell me, with a straight face, that one single vote will affect the outcome of the election. Yes, each vote does matter - and I am living proof of that.
Last Tuesday I won my bid for re-election as a Democratic Precinct Delegate. My margin of victory? One.
What is a Precinct Delegate?
In Michigan, the Precinct Delegate is the foundation of each major party's structure. Precinct Delegates are elected by voters in the August primary election in even-numbered years, so my name appeared on the same ballot as Senator Levin and a host of other great Democrats seeking nomination for state and local offices. More often than not, however, there are more Delegate seats allotted to a precinct than there are people to run for those spots.
Though we are called Precinct Delegates, the position is listed on the ballot as 'Delegate to the County Convention.' Actually, we are credentialed to vote at three Democratic County Conventions. At the first one, which is tomorrow, we will elect delegates and alternates to the Rules, Credentials, and Platform committees for next month's Democratic State Convention (wherein we will choose our Democratic nominees for the state Board of Education, Supreme Court, and other offices on the November ballot). We will also adopt resolutions for the Platform Committee to review when drafting the platform.
This November (after the election) we Precinct Delegates will convene to elect members of the county Party Executive Committee, which will in turn elect county Party officers (Chair, Vice Chairs, etc.) for the next two years. Finally, in February we will have another State Convention to elect District and State Party officers, adopt resolutions, etc. Thus another County Convention to elect convention committee delegates/alternates and adopt resolutions.
Oh, but that's not all. I reposted this blurb from a county Democratic chair onto Michigan Liberal back in May:
The Precinct Delegate is one of the most important of any elected office. It is the active Precinct Delegate who wins elections for the Democratic Party. Precinct Delegates are elected directly by the voters of each precinct to serve as a bridge between voters and the Democratic Party. Precinct Delegates represent the Democratic Party in their neighborhoods and represent their neighborhoods and Democratic Party meetings.
-Help Democrats get registered to vote
-Take information on issues and candidates to the voters in their precinct
-Identify other Democrats and recruit new Party members
-Help turn out the Democratic vote on Election Day
-Keep Democratic leaders informed about the issues that concern voters
I was first encouraged to run for Precinct Delegate in 2006 by my friend Rob, who himself has been a Precinct Delegate in Lenawee County (not far from Detroit). I filed the paperwork 75 minutes before the deadline to run in 2006. As one of three people seeking three delegate spots I was guaranteed to win (barring a write-in campaign). Well, whaddya know, I got 53 votes en route to a landslide victory.
This year, however, was a little different. You see, our precinct was only allotted two Delegate spots. (I assume it's based on Democratic performance in the 2006 election in the precinct, and I will admit that most of my work for Dems in '06 was in Isabella County, where I attend university. I swear I'm doing a lot more this cycle - no, really, I am!)
With the same three of us running for two Delegate spots, one of us was not going to win. I didn't want to be the odd man out, especially since (a) I had been planning to introduce a couple of resolutions to the convention, and (2) few precinct delegate races are contested and it would've been embarrassing to lose a race for Precinct Delegate.
After a little bit of campaigning, the election came, and with it a couple more challenges. For one, while there were two contested Republican primaries (for Sheriff and for State House), the only competitive Democratic race was mine. In Michigan, we don't declare a party affiliation when we register to vote. So, when we vote in a primary, we may choose to vote in either party's primary, but we can't split our ticket (i.e. I couldn't vote for myself as Precinct Delegate and then cross over to vote for a moderate-ish Republican running for State Rep).
Because the area is so red, the winners of each Republican primary were practically a lock to win in November. So I was hoping to be able to vote in the Republican primary to choose the "least of three or five evils." But I wanted re-election too much not to vote for myself. After all, there's a lot that I've wanted to do with my position as Precinct Delegate that I haven't been able to do yet.
And then we voted. My parents and I all chose to vote on the Democratic side, voting for Levin and other fine Democrats running unopposed. Then we each cast one vote for Precinct Delegate (we could've voted for two, but for obvious reasons we didn't).
Which leads me to my other challenge: The ballot listed our names in alphabetical order by surname; my last name beginning with U, my name was on the bottom of the list. So to a voter who voted Democratic and had never heard of us, the temptation could've been there for some people to cast their two votes for the two candidates listed above me.
So on Wednesday. I stopped by City Hall to see how I fared in my low-key election.
The candidate listed first got 33 votes. The second candidate got 29 votes. As for myself?
Thirty votes. I won by a single vote.
Had my parents not voted for me, I would've lost. Had one of us neglected to vote, or voted Republican, or if Moms' absentee ballot hadn't arrived, it would've been a tie, resulting in a coin flip (I believe that's how they break ties).
That single-vote margin allows me to have a greater influence on the Kent County and Michigan Democratic parties. I have been working on a couple of resolutions, one of which I hope to introduce next week and the other(s) I'll introduce in February.
Each vote does matter
Snopes has debunked a popular email claiming that, among other things, one vote made English the official US language instead of German and one vote allowed Texas to be admitted to the union. Even so, Wikipedia has a list of races that were decided by small margins. Among them are a race for U.S. House that was decided by four votes and a U.S. Senate race that was decided by two! Several Congressional races in 2006 were also quite close, including Joe Courtney's 83-vote win in CT-2 in 2006.
So if you are inclined to not do your part to elect Barack Obama as our President and other Democrats to other offices down the ballot, remember that every single vote you, your relatives, your friends, and your neighbors cast - or don't cast - has the potential to change the outcome of the election.