The power of one vote

Published 7:47 pm Tuesday, November 19, 2019

If you’ve read it once, you’ve read it a hundred times in this newspaper: one vote does matter. Sometimes, one vote is as powerful as 1,000.

Anyone with lingering doubts on that statement need look no further than last Friday’s political thriller at the Beaufort County Board of Elections, where a tie between two Washington City Council candidates led to an unconventional means of deciding the winner — a slip of paper drawn from a basket.

That was how William Pitt won the fifth seat on the City Council, unseating fellow incumbent Roland Wyman. It was not by a landslide victory, nor even by a slim margin. Rather, it was the fickle winds of chance that determined who will represent Washington on the Council.

By state law, that’s how a tied municipal election is settled — by lot. That can mean a coin flip, a random drawing or any other random means of selection. Some other joking suggestions included rolling dice, splitting a turkey wishbone, a foot race and a game of Washingtonopoly.

It only came down to that after an hours-long process of recounting every ballot in the Washington municipal election, first by machine and then by hand tally to verify the tie. Serious credit is due, by the way, to the Beaufort County Board of Elections and staff at the office for going to such great lengths to ensure a fair election. Their efforts should certainly be commended.

But that brings us to the point of this editorial. One vote could have made all the difference in that process. Although a race that close would have likely seen a recount anyway, a single ballot could have changed the entire outcome.

During the process, it was revealed that at least five people in Washington had written in Donald Trump on the ballot for city council. That’s fine and good, and they have the right to vote however they please (even though the president doesn’t live within these Washington city limits).

But the simple fact is, any one of those write-in votes, which were essentially throw-aways, could have chosen the next city council member. With only 22.01% of eligible Washington voters casting a ballot, so too could the 77.99% of registered voters who didn’t show up at the polls.

Perhaps you were one of them. Maybe you didn’t vote in this election because you thought your vote wouldn’t matter. We’re here to tell you that it does. From now forward, whenever the thought crosses your mind, think back to the 2019 Washington City Council election.