The Importance of One Vote
The most often heard
excuse for not voting in an election is "my one little vote won't make a
difference." Yet history is
full of instances proving the enormous power of one single vote. In many cases, the course of nations has
been changed because one individual ballot was cast — or not cast —
depending upon your point of view.
If you think that your vote won't make a difference, please
consider the following:
In 1645, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell
control of England.
In 1649, one vote literally cost King
Charles I of England his head. The
vote to behead him was 67 against and 68 for — the ax fell thanks to one
In 1714, one vote placed King George I
on the throne of England and restored the monarchy.
In 1776, one vote gave America the
English language instead of German (at least according to folk lore.)
In 1800, the electoral
college met in the respective states to cast their two votes for
President. At that time, the U.S.
Constitution provided the candidate receiving the most electoral votes would
become President and the candidate receiving the second highest number of votes
would become Vice President. When
the results of the electoral college votes were opened
by both houses of Congress, there was a tie vote for President between Thomas
Jefferson and Aaron Burr. That
threw the election of President into the House of Representatives where Thomas
Jefferson was elected our third president by a one vote margin.
In 1824, none of the four Presidential
candidates received an electoral majority.
The election was again thrown into the House of Representatives, where
John Quincy Adams defeated front runner Andrew Jackson by one vote to become
the nation's 6th president. Andrew
Jackson received the majority of the nation's popular vote.
In 1844 in the backwoods area of
Switzerland County, Indiana on election day, a farmer
named Freeman Clark lay seriously ill in bed. He begged his sons to carry him to the
county seat so he could vote for David Kelso to become a state senator. David Kelso had defended old Freeman
Clark on a murder charge and obtained his acquittal. The old farmer Freeman Clark got to vote
for Kelso but Clark died on his way back home. Kelso won the election by one vote. Both Freeman Clark and David Kelso were
long-time Andrew Jackson supporters.
In 1844 when the new Indiana senate
convened, Democrats had a majority of one — counting David Kelso. At that time, state senates had the task
of electing the states' United States Senator. The Indiana Senate Democrats held a
caucus where it developed a majority of the party delegation favored a man who
would vote against the annexation of Texas if elected to the U.S. Senate. David Kelso refused to vote for the
Democratic Party choice and a deadlock resulted between the Democratic and Whig
candidates. This continued for
days. Finally, Kelso made his
move. He proposed a new candidate: Edward A. Hannigan. In his party caucus, Kelso notified his
Democratic associates he would bolt and vote with the Whigs — thus
electing a Whig to the Senate — unless the Democrats supported Hannigan. The
Democrats felt constrained to accept Hannigan who was
then elected as Indiana's U.S. Senator by one vote — that of David Kelso.
In 1845, Texas was admitted to the
union as a state by one vote — that of Edward A. Hannigan
from Indiana. The 1844 and 1845
excerpts on the series of single votes leading to Texas statehood are from the
book, Magnificent Destiny.
10. In 1846, a one vote margin in the U.S. Senate approved President Polk's
request for a Declaration of War against Mexico.
11. In 1850, California was admitted to the union by a margin of one
12. In 1859, Oregon was admitted to the union by a margin of one vote.
13. The Alaska Purchase of 1867 was ratified by just one vote —
paving the way for the eventual annexation of America's largest state in 1958.
14. In 1868, one vote in the U.S. Senate saved President Andrew
Johnson from impeachment.
15. In 1875, a one vote margin changed France from a monarchy to a
16. In 1875, Florida's U.S. Senators were still elected by the state
Legislature. Democrat Charles W.
Jones of Pensacola was elected by the U.S. Senate by a majority of one vote.
17. In 1876, no presidential contender received a majority of
electoral votes so the determination of the country's president was again
thrown into the U.S. House of Representatives. By a one vote margin, Rutherford B.
Hayes became the new U.S. president.
When Tilden's party protested the tabulation and demanded a recount,
Congress established a 15-member electoral commission to again count the
electoral votes and declare the result.
By an eight to seven margin — again, one vote — the
commission affirmed the count and gave the election and presidency to Hayes.
18. In 1885, two members of the Florida House of Representatives waged
a friendly but close contest for Speaker of the House. Robert W. Davis of Green Cove Springs
defeated Gen. Ernest Yonge of Pensacola by one vote.
19. In 1889, by a one vote margin, Washington was admitted to
statehood with the union.
20. In 1890, by a one vote margin, Idaho became a state.
21. In 1916, if presidential hopeful Charles E. Hughes had received
one additional vote in each of California's precincts, he would have defeated
President Woodrow Wilson's re-election bid.
22. On November 8, 1923, members of the then recently-formed
revolutionary political party met to elect a leader in a Munich, Germany beer
hall. By a majority of one vote,
they chose an ex-soldier named Adolph Hitler to become the NAZI Party leader.
23. In 1940, the vote taken by the French parliament to maintain its
status as a republic failed by a margin of one vote.
24. In 1941, the Selective Service Act (the draft) was saved by a one
vote margin — just weeks before Pearl Harbor was attacked.
25. In 1948, a Texas convention voted for Lyndon B. Johnson over
ex-Governor Coke Stevens in a contested Senatorial election. Lyndon Johnson because U.S. Senator by a
one vote margin.
26. In 1948, if Thomas E. Dewey had gotten one vote more per precinct
in Ohio and California, the presidential election would have been thrown into
the U.S. House of Representatives where Dewey enjoyed more support than his
rival — incumbent Harry Truman.
As it was, Dewey was expected to win the general election by a landslide
so most Republicans stayed home.
Only 51.5 percent of the electorate voted. Truman defeated Dewey.
27. In a 1955 city election in Huron, Ohio, the mayor was elected to
office by one vote.
28. In a 1959 city election, mayors of both Rose Creek and Odin,
Minnesota were elected to their respective offices by one vote.
29. In the 1960 presidential election, an additional one vote per
precinct in Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, and Texas may have altered the
course of America's modern history by denying John F. Kennedy the presidency
and placing Richard Nixon in the White House eight years earlier.
30. In 1962, the governors of Maine, Rhode Island, and North Dakota
were all elected by a margin of one vote per precinct.
31. In 1984, a Monroe County, Florida commissioner was elected by one
32. In 1994, the U.S. House of Representatives enacted a law banning
specific classes of assault weapons.
The vote was initially tied but one member changed his vote to approve
33. Bills proposing amendment to the U. S. Constitution require a
2/3's vote of each House in order to be approved. When the balanced budget amendment bill
came before the U.S. Senate in March, 1995, the measure failed by one vote
— Mark Hatfield, Republican from Oregon, was the sole Republican failing
to vote with other members of the Republican Party which was the majority party
of the U.S. Senators. When it
became apparent the measure would fail, Senate Republican Whip Bob Dole changed
his vote to enable him to bring the matter back up under parliamentary rules
for a vote in the future.