EDITORIAL: Your vote could have been one of 18 to decide race
- Yes 95%
- No 5%
21 total votes.
Early Wednesday morning, long after most races had been called, Cleveland County Election Board officials discovered a problem: Some of the votes in a state House race hadn’t been counted.
So, several hours after Democrat Paula Roberts had given her acceptance speech, a recount revealed Republican incumbent Aaron Stiles likely is leading the race by a mere 18 votes out of more than 13,000 ballots.
But with 300 provisional ballots waiting for verification and with Roberts having until Friday to ask for another recount, the result could change once again.
The race still is too close to call. But whatever the outcome, this situation is powerful evidence of why it is important for Sooners to vote — even when it doesn’t affect the presidential election.
With just 18 votes making the difference between a Republican and a Democrat representing District 45 in the House, every vote mattered. Would the results have been different if turnout had been higher? If more students had participated?
The Electoral College may make Oklahoma invisible in the presidential race, but it’s in state and local races your vote has real influence. Happily, it’s also state and local races that have the greatest effect on the policies that actually impact your life.
And, unlike the presidential candidates, state legislators almost always have truly different views.
President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney may have differed on the flashy issues, but their agreement on serious core problems may have frustrated you. It may even have kept you from voting. But on the state level, particularly in Oklahoma, candidates have a wider field on which to differentiate themselves.
For example, Stiles brought traditional Oklahoma conservativism to the race, with an extremely right-of-center social outlook and a focus on protecting business interests. Roberts balanced a Southern viewpoint with progressive social values and an experienced, down-to-earth focus on education.
Voters had a real choice between two different worldviews and visions for Oklahoma, and both sides had a very real chance of success.
And this race isn’t a fluke. Maybe every state or local election does not come down to such a small margin, but all of them have a smaller voting pool and so are affected more by each individual vote. The turnout — and the educated decisions of voters — has a good chance of swaying all but the most lopsided of races.
Just look at the state questions. All of the questions on this year’s ballot passed, including a regressive ban on affirmative action programs. The margins in these votes were high, but the turnout rates for those groups who were likely to oppose them are traditionally low.
If all those students who took one look at the presidential election and decided to stay home had learned about the state questions and voted, they might have made a difference. The same goes for all local and state races.
And if you take the fruits of that process and educate other voters about the proposals on the ballot, you even could change the results.