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PD Editorial: The value of a single vote

  • This artwork by William Brown relates to candidates and initiatives that might not be familiar to voters.

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.


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