The power of one vote

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Editor’s note: The following column appeared in the Oct. 27 issue of the Hartselle Enquirer.

My sister, Anna, is a freshman at Auburn University. At 19, she is a registered voter and this will be her first election to cast a ballot.

I would love to say she’s read up on all the candidates and can’t wait for the chance to exercise one of her most important freedoms, but I’m afraid that’s not the case.

&uot;I don’t know enough about them,&uot; she said recently, referring to the two candidates. &uot;How do I know who to vote for?&uot;

Anna is not alone. While greater emphasis is being placed on getting young people to vote, the number actually doing so continues to drop.

According to the US Census Bureau, 50 percent of all 18-24 year old registered voters cast a ballot in 1972. By 1996, that number had dropped to 32 percent.

This year, only half of those between the ages of 18-24 are even registered to vote.

And it’s not just young people who aren’t voting. In 1964, 69 percent of registered voters in all other age groups cast a ballot. By 1996, that number was down to 54 percent.

Why the decline? The excuses are many.

We’re busy. There’s not enough difference between the two candidates, anyway. The voting places are crowded and going to them is inconvenient. And besides, my one vote doesn’t matter.

Or does it?

The University of San Francisco conducted a study examining the power of one vote. Consider these:

* In 1645, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England.

* In 1776, one vote named English instead of German the official language of the United States.

* In 1868, one vote saved President Andrew Jackson from impeachment.

* In 1875, one vote changed France from a monarchy to a republic.

* In 1876, one vote gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency of the United States.

* In 1923, one vote gave Adolf Hitler leadership of the Nazi Party.

* In 1941, one vote saved the Selective Service from being discontinued. The vote was held just weeks before Pearl Harbor was attacked.

* In 1990, one vote decided a house of representatives race in Oakland County, Mich.

Think of how history could have changed if just one more person had decided to vote on those issues. If one less person had said they were busy, or there wasn’t much difference in the candidates or the issues. Or maybe one fewer person said the voting place was crowded or inconvenient, deciding to take the time out of their day to let their voice be heard.

One vote. It could be yours. Let’s hope it is.

Leada DeVaney Gore is the publisher of the Hartselle Enquirer and the Madison County Record. She is the former managing editor of the Shelby County Reporter