Every Vote Counts

3 Comments | Category: Campaigns, Elections

It often takes time for the ramifications of a major election to sink in. We’ve had over a week now to assess and critique the quality of various polling models from this election cycle, the evident rejection of Tea Partyism, Obama’s successful reelection, the country’s shifting demographics, and the electorate’s decision to return divided government to Washington.

While these major themes from this particular election are significant, it is worth considering a broad, yet critical theme reinforced by this year’s races. 2012 again showed the truth behind the old, somewhat clichéd adage which suggests that “every vote counts” in an election.

Nine years ago I learned a hard lesson about every vote counting. In 2003 my friend Judge John Driscoll of the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas sought a seat on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. Three Superior Court judgeships were available that year and Driscoll emerged from a tough, crowded primary. The November election came down to Driscoll and two other Democratic nominees against a slate of three Republican hopefuls.

Despite a tireless campaign across all 67 counties in the Commonwealth, Judge Driscoll lost the November election, failing to secure enough votes to win the third and final Superior Court seat in a squeaker.  In the end, Driscoll was defeated by Susan Gantman by a final tally of 1,125,543 votes to 1,125,515. The closest statewide general election in Pennsylvania history had been decided by just 28 votes!

During the weeks following the election I started thinking about how the race could have been won by knocking on a few extra doors or attending one or two more events on behalf of my candidate. I thought that perhaps these things could have somehow made the difference. After all, a narrow defeat leaves much time for Monday morning quarterbacking. The real take-away from this race—decided by less than 30 votes in a state of 12 million citizens and 2.3 million votes cast—became obvious to me. I realized for the first time that every vote does indeed count.

In 2011 the “deadlock of democracy” struck again in my native Westmoreland County. In the November 2011 municipal election two local races for auditor positions in the tiny boroughs of Arona and North Irwin resulted in exact ties. In North Irwin two candidates tied with two votes each while in Arona eight write-in candidates tied, each receiving three votes. According to the Tribune Review, the outcome of these hopelessly deadlocked races was decided at the county election bureau office when the candidates pulled numbered pills from a cup. This, dear reader, is democracy at work!

Philadelphians were also reminded that every vote counts in the 2011 general election. After being declared too close to call on election night, it took several days to determine the winner of the final At-Large seat on City Council. In the end, now-Councilman David Oh and Northeast Chamber of Commerce leader Al Taubenberger—two individuals I know quite well—were separated by about 150 votes out of tens of thousands cast citywide. In a city with over 1,600 precincts it is easy to speculate how just a few voters who chose to stay home in a handful of precincts could have had a remarkable impact on the outcome.

Lastly, we come to November 6, 2012 and the 39th House District in Allegheny and Washington Counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania. After a narrow victory by just 151 votes in 2010, Republican State Representative Rick Saccone was defending his seat against former Representative Dave Levdansky, the man he defeated two years earlier. The race had become the top target in the state for House Democrats looking to gain ground on the firm GOP majority in the lower chamber.

Election night featured another nail-biter: the race was too close to call. The following day the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Saccone held a slim, 36 vote lead out of almost 29,000 ballots cast. Meanwhile the Tribune Review reported that the challenger’s calculations showed him with enough votes to prevail. On November 14, PoliticsPA.com wrote that the final count of provisional and regular ballots determined Saccone to be the winner by just 114 votes, defeating his opponent by a margin of 14,486 to 14,372. Incredibly, this race was decided by just 0.004 percent of the total votes cast.

Franklin Roosevelt once noted that “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” These recent examples in Pennsylvania history should be convincing for any citizen who doubts whether their vote actually makes a difference. In the end it’s quite simple: every vote counts and every election matters.

Category: Campaigns, Elections

    3 Comments so far

  1. Bob says:

    Making elections personal is a wise writing technique. I remember a barn-burner in the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Club election when Jed Lightpost needed only one more vote to unseat Ned Shaboogenboogen. What a mess! Bribes were offered, election officials were on high alert, and the outcome was highly questionable in the eyes of the electorate. Jed wound up winning by a landslide after all the post-election shenanigans were over.Lessons learned.

  2. Doug says:

    Here’s a great story that clearly, and painfully, makes your point:


  3. Tony West says:

    The Driscoll-Gantman race is a great story I totally missed when it was happening (wasn’t doing political work in that year). Thanks!

  4. Have An Opinion? Leave A Comment!


© 2018 Nathan Shrader. All rights reserved. | Log in