Published 5:10 am Saturday, October 18, 2008
With the no-excuse, one-stop voting period under way, perhaps it is a good time to take a look at the importance of exercising one’s right to vote.
For that person who believes his or her one vote will not make a difference, it is time to educate them about the fallacy of that way of thinking.
Perhaps one of the most famous “one-vote” incidents was the attempt to remove President Andrew Johnson from office in 1868. Johnson retained his office by one vote. After being impeached, a vote was held to remove Johnson from office. To remove him from the presidency, two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote to remove him. The final vote count was 35-19 against him. A 36-18 vote against Johnson was needed to remove him from office. The attempt failed by one vote, thereby allowing Johnson to remain president.
In 1839, one vote resulted in Marcus “Landslide” Morton winning the governorship of Massachusetts. In that election, voters cast 102,066 ballots. Morton receive exactly 51,034 of those votes. If Morton had tallied one less vote, the election would have been sent to the Legislature, where he probably would have lost, according to several accounts of the incident.
Not satisfied with winning an election by one vote, Morton was again elected governor in 1842 by one vote, that time in the Legislature.
One-vote situations are not unique to the United States.
In Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania), the Afro-Shirazi Party won the general elections by one seat, after the seat of Chake-Chake on Pemba Island was won by a single vote on Jan. 18, 1961, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
In Beaufort County, some voters are upset they may only vote for one candidate in the upcoming election for county commissioners.
Beaufort County is saddled with the limited-voting method when it comes to electing county commissioners. That makes a voter’s vote important. Take the upcoming election for example, although four seats on the Board of Commissioners are up for grabs this year, a voter is limited to voting for just one candidate. So, being limited to one vote makes that vote important. The voter must decide which candidate gets that vote.
Limited voting took effect during the early 1990s, after a federal judge ruled the commissioners of that day had accepted a settlement with plaintiffs in a voting-rights lawsuit led by David Moore, a black Democrat who would become a commissioner after the limited-voting method was put into place.
The plaintiffs, representing the minority community, called for court-ordered change because no black person had ever been elected to the county board. The first black commissioner was elected after the imposition of limited voting, which consolidates minority voting strength.
Many voters, and they have a good argument, believe that one vote per voter is not enough when it comes to electing commissioners. It’s understandable that if four seats are available, then a voter should get to vote for four candidates.
After Republicans won a majority of the commissioners’ seats for the first time in 2002, a local GOP coalition set about identifying methods that could replace limited voting. It was made clear at the time that any replacement plan would have to pass the test of U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard, who presided over the lawsuit, and win “preclearance” from the U.S. Department of Justice.
So, whether it is a vote that may remove a president from office or a vote to elect a county commissioner, it’s evident that one vote does make a difference. It is also evident that being limited to one vote makes a difference to voters.
The right to vote is paramount in this nation. Voters should have the right to vote by a method they consider the right way. Perhaps it is time to renew efforts to find a voting method that’s better than the limited-voting method now used and yet continues to consolidate the voting strength of minorities.