I’m really glad the New York Times reminded us all about our votes.
In their editorial today — about a few New York State legislative candidates — they ended with this:
By the way, as you consider what you’ll be doing on Nov. 6, let this gnaw at you: Last year, the race for a Virginia House of Delegates seat that would determine control of the legislature ended in a tie. The winner’s name was drawn from a bowl. (The Republican won.)
I blew that up and bolded it, because I do remember what happened in Virginia. And I realized the story of that one single vote — on a disputed ballot containing errors that should have gotten the ballot tossed (it was for Yancey, the Republican) — should be printed in every single newspaper just before every election.
A key excerpt from David Leonhardt’s column toward the end of the Virginia business:
Election officials and judges have spent weeks scrutinizing ballots in the statehouse race, with the lead shifting between the Republican incumbent, David Yancey, and the Democratic challenger, Shelly Simonds. The Democrat seemed to have won on Tuesday, only to have a three-judge panel judge allow one disputed ballot (a photo of which was obtained by The Virginian Pilot on Wednesday) and create a tie. The two candidates each have 11,608 votes.
There are no perfect solutions here. But there are better ones than allowing important matters of state policy to be determined by a random draw, as Virginia law requires. “When it comes to elections, America is still living in ancient times,” Christal Hayes of USA Today writes. “Ancient Greece also used similar methods to break ties.”
Imagine, if you were a Virginian who never managed to vote in that election, a Virginian who had every intention of voting for Shelly Simonds, but forgot, or got held up, or…Imagine.
I’ve been (obsessively) following the poll analysis on 538 (can’t quit Nate Silver, he’s that good), and there are a couple of races for which it is not utterly inconceivable that your one vote will decide our country’s fate for the next couple of years.