Tuesday, August 30, 2016

‘Power of One’ confirmed ... again

Voters in one Oklahoma locale decided this week whether to impose a new sales tax to maintain and construct streets, roads, bridges and drains.

The proposed half-cent tax on the city of Poteau’s primary ballot was defeated. Final tally: 190 in favor and 190 in opposition. That’s right. The community of about 8,600 residents was equally divided on the issue.

Well, all we can do is assume residents of the community located south of Interstate 40 near the Oklahoma-Arkansas line was equally divided on the issue. A scant 17 percent, or 380 people, of the town’s reported 6,729 registered voters bothered to cast ballots on the issue.

There is a very good chance a wider turnout would have proved to be the difference one way or the other.

The ballot result this week got me to thinking about a magazine article I did years ago titled “The Power of One.” It attempted to communicate the importance of taking the time to get registered, and casting a ballot, whether by absentee, early voting, or on Election Day.

Throughout the voting section there were examples of numerous occasions during the course of our nation’s history when one vote either did or could have altered an election. Examples of close votes include:
  • In 1820, Thomas Hart Benton became one of the first U.S. senators for Missouri by a one-vote margin.
  • In 1910, Charles B. Smith defeated De Alva S. Alexander by a single vote to claim Buffalo, N.Y.’s congressional seat.
  • In 1962, the governors of Maine, North Dakota and Rhode Island were elected by a one-vote-per-precinct average.
  • In 1994, Randall Luthi and Larry Call tied for a seat in the Wyoming House. Luthi was declared the winner when a pingpong ball bearing his name was pulled from the cowboy hat of then-Gov. Mike Sullivan.
  • In 1976, Sydney Nixon bested Robert Emond for a seat in the Vermont House by one vote. After a recount, Emond was declared the victor by a one-vote margin.
  • In 2008, Angela Tuttle was elected constable of Hancock County, Tenn., when she submitted her name as a write-in candidate. The lone vote was enough to win because nobody else was vying for the position.
These are great examples in a long list of reasons why it is essential for voters, including truckers, to make sure they take the time to cast a ballot.

As is the case in this week’s Poteau vote, not being home on Election Day cannot be an excuse for the poor turnout. The Sooner State makes available to voters multiple options to make sure people have their voices heard: no-excuse absentee voting, early voting, and “regular” voting at the booth on Election Day.

It is a great privilege to potentially be able to have influence on hundreds, thousands, if not millions, of others simply by making sure your voice is heard on Election Day. It is a privilege that too many take for granted.