by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

You say you never vote? Or maybe you’re too busy to take time to vote? Why should you bother? One vote doesn’t make a difference. Or does it?

Did you know . . . ?

In 1776, America’s primary language would have been German if it weren’t for the one vote majority in favor of English.

In 1845, one vote made Texas part of the United States. When the Senate voted on this issue, a tie occurred. Then one Senator changed his vote and by this single vote Texas became the 28th state.

In 1876, with the presidential election thrown into the House, Rutherford B. Hayes won by a single vote cast by an Indiana Congressman who himself had been elected by a one vote margin.

In 1923, one vote in the German Parliament gave Hitler leadership of the Nazi Party.

One vote can change a nation or even change the world. One vote can indeed make a difference. History has taught this.

In 2000, the presidential election was decided by 537 votes. Of the 186 million people who were U. S. citizens eligible to vote, 130 million were registered to vote. 111 million of the registered voters actually voted. That’s 19 million registered voters who didn’t vote. And another 56 million people eligible to vote who never registered. 21% of the registered non-voters said their reason for not voting was they were “too busy.” (U.S. Census Bureau)

People who don’t vote give up a chance to make a difference.

The core of American democracy is the right to vote. My vote is my voice. And I am duly aware that as a woman, the right to vote did not always belong to my grandmother. August 26, 2004 marked the 84th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution giving women the right to vote. I do take that voting right quite seriously. I honor this right as both my civic duty and a privilege.

A democracy is only as strong as its citizens’ participation in it. I believe that democracy in America needs the voice of each citizen. Without the voice of every citizen, a democracy will create a governing body that is not fully representative of the citizenry. Our voice, our votes make the American political system function effectively.

The Declaration of Independence speaks of a government that is established by its citizens. Of a government that is given its “just powers from the consent of the governed.” Consent that is given through the votes of its citizens.

If you are a citizen of the United States and eighteen or older, you have the right to vote in local, state and national elections. And all who want to vote can take the time to vote. In Texas, citizens have voter leave rights which mean employers must give employees the privilege of attending the polls without penalty. Consequently, no deductions may be made from the wages of an employee who takes time off to vote. There is an employer penalty up to $500 for violation of this law. (However, if polls are open for voting for two consecutive hours outside of the voter’s working hours, time off to vote doesn’t have to be provided.)

We are unified as citizens by our right to vote. Voting provides us the opportunity to agree to disagree and respect each other’s differing opinions. At the end of the day, we set aside our differences and are grateful we had the privilege of participating in a democracy. At least I know I am grateful for such a privilege. And my love for American democracy is far greater than my opinion on who should lead this great country.

Mary Baker Eddy, a 19th century best-selling American author, founder of a Pulitzer-prize winning newspaper, and creator of a spirituality and healing movement that continues worldwide today, never enjoyed the right to vote in this country. Even without that precious right to vote, she offered some extempore remarks one July fourth that included the following:

The Pilgrims came to establish a nation in true freedom, in the rights of conscience. But what of ourselves, and our times and obligations? Are we duly aware of our own great opportunities and responsibilities? Are we prepared to meet and improve them, to act up to the acme of divine energy wherewith we are armored? (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896)

Voting in America is no longer restricted by race or sex. Let’s exercise this freedom. We are the future of our country. Voting gives you an important voice in determining your own future by electing officials who reflect your views and speak for you in legislative actions. These are our times. Our opportunities. Make sure your voice is heard on Election Day. Your vote can change the world.