At least twice every year, those who care about elections get on their soapbox to preach the importance of casting a ballot. Every vote counts, or so the sermon goes, and the premise is a single one can decide an election.
It’s a message that should encourage more people to vote, yet Ohio’s dismal record of low voter turnout suggests it’s falling on deaf ears.
It shouldn’t.
Narrowly-decided elections — those where an issue or elected office is decided by a handful of votes or less — aren’t as rare as one may think.
Earlier this week, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted cited 29 local elections, including ones in Hardin and Wood counties, that were decided by a single vote or tied during the most recent general election. They included 25 races and four issues.
It wasn’t just last year. Over the past five years, there have been 141 elections that were decided by just one vote or tied.
Issues and ballot questions in Ohio require a majority vote in order to pass, so if there is a tie, the matter fails. But when there is a tie in races determining local offices such as city council or township trustee, winners are determined by lot. All of the races that resulted in a tie in the November 2017 election were decided by either a coin toss or name draw.
Ohio, of course, isn’t the only state to experience close elections.
A contested seat for Virginia’s House of Delegates had to be decided Thursday by a name draw after two candidates each finished with 11,608 votes. Republican David Yancey prevailed as the winner over Democrat Shelly Simonds in the state’s 94th legislative district.
Closer to home, Husted pointed out that a village race in Alger finished tied in Hardin County, and a race for Bradner Council, in Wood County, was decided by just one vote.
Ohio makes it not only easy to vote, but easy to be informed when visiting a polling place.
Since 2015, voters have had access to an online voter “toolkit” where they can view a sample of the ballot they would receive on Election Day, or in the mail as an absentee ballot. The toolkit allows voters to track their absentee ballot, find their polling location and check their voter registration.
Last year, the state’s first online voter registration system went live. To date, more than 8,300 Ohioans have registered to vote online and more than 492,000 Ohio voters have updated their information via the internet.
Husted’s point that every vote counts is well taken, and examples support his argument.
There really is no good excuse not to register or not to vote. Maybe the next election it will be your vote that makes the difference.