So you think your vote doesn't count? Consider two recent contests — one local, one distant; one made national headlines, the other has been largely relegated to the back pages.
We're talking about the Virginia congressional primary where voters unexpectedly (and unceremoniously) dumped House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the nail-biter contest for state controller in California's June 3 primary.
There's a lesson in each of these races about the potential consequences of not voting.
Until returns started rolling in on June 3, the controller's race didn't get much attention. It was seen as an intramural bout between Democrats John A. P?ez and Betty Yee for the second spot on the November ballot, along with Republican Ashley Swearengin.
Swearengin, the mayor of Fresno, did finish first on Election Day, but her margin of victory was surprisingly small. Voters in 25 counties went for Republican David Evans, a political unknown whose biggest expenditure was for a ballot statement reading "most qualified for controller." Until returns from the largest counties came in, it appeared that Evans might claim the second spot on November's ballot. But the race wasn't decided until Monday when tiny Lake County reported its final returns — and it still may not be settled.
With all 58 counties reporting, Yee, a state Board of Equalization member, defeated P?ez, a former Assembly speaker, by just 484 votes out of more than 4 million cast — a difference of less than 0.001 percent.
You can't get much closer than that.
In practical terms, had the P?ez campaign turned out nine more voters in each county, he would have finished second and advanced to the general election instead of Yee.
Given a statewide turnout of barely 25 percent, it would have been a lot more economical for P?ez to try to find those voters and get them to the polls than it will be to find the millions of dollars he would be required to pay for a statewide recount, or even a partial recount.
The Virginia race wasn't close. Cantor was beaten soundly by fellow Republican David Brat, a tea party-affiliated college professor who spent less on his entire campaign than Cantor's campaign spent on steakhouse meals.
Cantor is the first majority leader to lose in a primary, and his June 10 defeat had national implications: reinvigorating the most conservative elements of the GOP and snuffing out any chance of passing immigration reform legislation this year.
How many votes were cast in this game-changing election? Barely 65,000. To put that in perspective, congressional districts typically have about 710,000 residents. Cantor's has 738,000 residents and 474,000 registered voters. Voter turnout: 13 percent. Voter impact: far beyond their numbers.
The general election is on Nov. 4, and the conventional wisdom is that California, where Gov. Jerry Brown is way ahead in public opinion polls, will flirt with another record for low turnout.
If voters stay home in droves, will Democrats lose their supermajorities in the Legislature? Are nonvoters ready to cede decisions on multibillion-dollar school and water bonds? Health insurance rate regulations? The maximum size of medical malpractice awards?
It's easy to vote. You can register online and have a ballot delivered to you in the mail. But if you can't be bothered, don't complain about the outcome.