One vote: yours

Thanks to the League of Women Voters ( for reminding us about some of the information in this column.

On October 7, we voters of California have a chance to mark up a ballot (or punch a chad) to express our opinions about the future direction of the state. History will be made, and you can be a player. It’s easy to forget—amid all the recall hype, TV ads and distorted claims these last months—that it all comes down, finally, to each of us simply casting one vote on election day.

Sometimes, it helps to remember that it took bold acts of heroism for many of us to secure our one vote. Suffragettes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton pursued the right to vote for decades before women succeeded in getting the vote in 1920. And we hardly have to be reminded of the long battle that Martin Luther King Jr. and tens of thousands of others fought during the 1950s and 1960s to finally win the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Don’t let their efforts go in vain during this recall.

You’re asking, “How much does one vote really count?”

• In 1765, the Virginia Assembly adopted Patrick Henry’s revolutionary anti-stamp resolution by just one vote.

• One vote in 1868 cast by U.S. Senator Edmund G. Ross saved the presidency of Andrew Johnson after an impeachment attempt.

• One electoral vote made Rutherford B. Hayes the 19th president of the United States in 1876.

• Harry Truman carried California in 1948 and became president by a one-vote-per-district margin.

• In 1960, one vote changed in each precinct in Illinois could have denied John F. Kennedy the presidency.

In 2000, George W. Bush won the presidency when the Supreme Court ruled in his favor during an unprecedented legal battle that arose out of the finding, by election officials, that votes in the key electoral state of Florida had been counted imprecisely. As we all remember, before the justices weighed in, the votes were being counted chad by chad, vote by vote.

Now, it’s true that something is broken in the American voting realm when even election officials cannot claim that all citizens will have a mistake-free voting experience. (Thankfully, such matters seemingly will be getting closer scrutiny in the coming years.) And it’s also true that there are many who question whether we should be voting in the first place in this particular election. After all, recalls are only supposed to occur when there has been a serious breach of office, and Governor Gray Davis has committed no known crime.

But those are moot points now. The election is on.

Let’s embrace October 7 as a good chance to remind ourselves that we matter as citizens, that our opinion counts and that one vote really can make a difference.

And know that every time we engage, we grow stronger.