It’s popular to say, “my vote doesn’t matter” in our undemocratic democracy that is a wholly owned subsidiary of America’s oligarchs, but that’s simply not true. Sometimes it does feel hopeless being active in politics, as it seems as if your representatives will only listen to you if you have at least six figures in your bank account. However, as rigged as our system is—it’s not completely hopeless—votes still put candidates in to office, and one single vote initially flipped control of the Virginia House of Delegates to the Democrats before a court ruling complicated matters.
Prior to November's election, the Virginia House of Delegates was dominated by Republicans—with them holding 66 seats to the Democrats' 34. Once Shelly Simonds won the recount* over incumbent David Yancey by a single vote, that brought the split to 50-50—which means that Virginia's Democratic Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax could break any ties—shifting control to the Democrats in Virginia's House for the first time in seventeen years.
*Note: Yancey is challenging the recount. No ruling was determined upon initial publication of this column, but here is his argument that he advanced and won.
Politics are bleak—especially these days—and it's easy to let the ubiquitous sorrow bury your political ambitions, but the end of 2017 is an object lesson in what can happen when people show up to vote. Looking at it through a presidential lens, sure—if you live in a solid red or blue state (so, most of the states), your vote doesn't really matter on a presidential level—but most of our politics takes place at lower levels, and that is where your vote can really make a difference. You don't even need to vote for a candidate who is running to make an impact. Phillip Garcia, Editor-at-Large for The Rumpus, wrote his own name in for the Philadelphia Ward 21 election, and he won.
Your vote matters. As oligarchic and dismaying as our politics are, we still have elections at the end of the day. Don’t take them for granted, and don’t give in to the trope that your vote won’t make a difference. This election in Virginia (as well as several others) proved that maxim to be empirically untrue.
UPDATE: Three judges ruled unanimously in favor of David Yancey, and the vote will be counted, which means that we have a tie. The title of this article has been changed, as has any reference to the Democrats winning this election. So what happens now? Per the legal code of Virginia:
If any two or more persons have an equal number of votes and a higher number than any other person for member of the General Assembly or of the Congress of the United States, or elector of President and Vice President of the United States, the State Board of Elections shall proceed publicly to determine by lot which of them shall be declared elected.
“Determine by lot” means that control of the House of Delegates will be determined by the State Board of Elections, and will effectively come down to a coin flip. In an interview with reporters, David Yancey wasn’t too certain of what will happen, other than this will now escalate to the State Board of Elections. There is still much to be sorted out, and this election will be decided in the courts now, but the message of this column remains the same: if one more person had showed up to vote for either side, they would have shifted control of the Virginia House in the direction of their vote.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.