Yesterday made it very clear to me that indeed every vote counts. Yesterday marked the first evening since our family moved to New England that the sun set over our little cape at the bend in the road, where the lake spills into the wandering river, on the eve of a presidential election day. And I wasn’t even in our state when the pink sky turned to gray beyond our barn’s roof. I was on a greyhound bus heading north.
On Election Day 2016, my youngest and I were in our native state, Delaware. Delaware is the only state where I have ever voted for a president on Election Day. And every four years a huge majority of Delaware voters had always disagreed with my own personal choice for commander-in-chief. Always seeing the opposing candidate garner all of Delaware’s measly 3 electoral votes with a giant margin of popular votes, I never felt like my little vote put much of a dent in things. While I never felt like my ballot made a difference, I also never stopped making sure I showed up on election day. I know that every vote counts, and I would never miss having my say, even if it is a meager whisper in a thundering sea of different opinions.
But this year–my first election year in my new, small, New England town–was different. Not just for me, but across the country. All night long, across the nation, we saw that states were “To Close To Call.” The saying was repeated incessantly by newscasters as polling numbers rolled in but offered no decisive winners in state after state. It was repeated so much my daughters and I renamed the phrase by its initial letters and kept singing out “TiC. TiC.” with every new announcement that was no announcement at all.
Our own state’s numbers continually swung red then blue then back to red, often with 100 votes between the two, reminding onlookers on the edge of couches across the country that every vote counts. Once the number dipped as low as 15. Only 15 votes were separating the two candidates for president.
I almost cried tears of joy for my own vote, and the three others in our household, when I saw that puny number of 15. I counted our 4 votes as part of that 15. Just 3 other households across our state, along with our own, and that number would be in favor of the other candidate. Every. Single. Vote. Mattered. In fact, they each mattered so much, the volunteers in our town hall didn’t leave until 3 a.m. the next morning, recounting every single vote until there was definite assurance of which candidates won in our little cut out on the New Hampshire map. The winning presidential candidate in my small town won by 545 votes. In the state as a whole, the difference between the winner and the loser? 1,437 votes.
If just a little over 1,000 people had stayed home in my state, or just over 1,000 more had driven to the polls, the outcome could have been different.
Every vote counts.
I can’t describe my joy over the value of my vote that I had placed by absentee ballot in the prior week. I had waited until the last minute, as I was driving past the old town hall on my way to the bus terminal with my daughter, on a trip to visit family.
I pulled into the small parking lot past the picket fences and under the 2-century-old cupola and ran up the steps to cast my vote, knowing I wouldn’t be back in town until after the polls closed on election day.
But I had forgotten that this day was the one day of the week that town hall closes. I knocked. I almost cried. Then I decided to call inside, to see if anyone was by any chance working on their day off and would be willing to hand me an absentee ballot.
The clerk, Debbie, was in catching up on paperwork, and she not only answered the phone but gladly welcomed me in when she heard my dilemma. I stood at the main desk, in the dimly lit, silent room and filled in the circles for the candidates I wanted to lead our town and our nation in the years ahead. I would have been able to hear a whisper two rooms over in our old, empty Town Hall on that solemn moment. It was edifying to reverently, quietly color in the circles. Yet for all I knew, my votes would yet again be a whisper in a thundering sea of different opinions.
I knew differently one week later, after 11 hours on greyhounds and in bus stations in four different states. After my daughter and I had swayed into the final station of the day and my husband drove us the additional 30 minutes to our rural neck of the woods, we arrived just 1/2 hour after the east coast polls had closed. We eagerly looked to see if New Hampshire was painted blue or red. And we watched over the next hours as so many states were “TiCTiC”–“To Close To Call.”
I felt invigorated sitting in my moose flannel PJ pants by the soothing fire and watching the numbers swagger back and forth. My puny little, almost-didn’t-happen ballot mattered.
Do you believe every vote counts? Do you have a story to share about how you know your vote counted?
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