If voters across the state of Kansas ever needed a reminder that every single vote counts, the elections of November 2019 made an astonishing case. Your vote matters. And in some cases, it might be the deciding one.
Take these three examples, just from this month:
• In Topeka’s District 8 city council race, Spencer Duncan ended up defeating incumbent Jeff Coen by a baker’s dozen of votes — 13 ballots.
• A Lansing City Council contest between incumbent Andi Pawlowski and Marcus Majure was even tighter — an astonishing four votes as of Nov. 9.
• And in Cowley County, the college board of trustees race and an Arkansas City Commission contest were being decided by razor-thin margins as well.
The overall state turnout for these off-year elections was 18 percent, which is actually respectable given historical trends. But that still means that only about one in five eligible voters decided to take the leap, educate themselves and walk into the voting booth to cast a ballot.
When voting turnout comes up, editorial boards across the nation are used to speaking out about the importance of making your voice heard. It can be an uphill battle at times, especially in states like Kansas where one party has long dominated statewide politics. At that point, we usually emphasize the importance of voting as speech. If you don’t vote, you’re not contributing to the local, state and national conversation over who should lead.
But this year, and in these cases, we have a stark reminder of the practical implications of turning out.
In local races, a handful of ballots can decide a race. A decently sized book club, kickball team or Bible study group could have altered the results of any of the contests outlined above. You could have probably knocked doors on a couple of blocks in your hometown — wherever your hometown happens to be — and found enough voters to alter the outcome.
We congratulate those of you who did turn out and whose votes eventually decided these astonishingly close races. You did the right thing. But we’re going to speak to the other four out of five now. See how much difference you can make? See how close these races are?
Representative democracy works based on the consent of the governed. And our consent depends on being consulted regularly about who governs us.
Let this month be an example: We need you show up, speak out and cast that ballot.