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With every flyer I placed on the doorknob, I felt a surge of energy. I was actually making a difference, and for an 11-year-old kid, that’s a big deal. I had taken Judge Loys Criswell’s request to help him in his re-election campaign for associate district judge of Jackson County, Okla., as seriously as if I had been asked to be the campaign manager for the president of the United States. And when mom knocked on my bedroom door, informing me that the judge had won, I put down my comic book, glanced at the judge’s campaign poster hanging on my wall, swelled with pride, feeling like I had been a player in the world of politics.
Was that world a small one? Yes. Did I exaggerate my role in the venerable judge’s reelection campaign? Of course. Was I wrong to think I had actually made a difference? Absolutely not.
Perhaps the false belief that when it comes to the enormous arena of politics our involvement makes little or no difference is one of the reasons for low voter participation. In the 2008 presidential election, 42 percent of eligible voters didn’t bother to vote.
That world of politics seems so big, and we in comparison, so little. Then when we read that the presidential candidates this year will spend a combined $2 billion to get elected, whatever contribution we can make seems miniscule. And what of our vote? Should we even bother to vote? Does it really matter anyway? And even if we do vote, can it change anything, really? Yes, yes and yes! Your vote does matter and you have the potential to initiate change by casting your ballot.
Perhaps all the political wrangling has made us cynical. Maybe we’ve heard so much negative campaigning that we simply want to cover our ears, mute the volume and hope it will all go away. Or maybe we’ve grown lazy, mentally slack, willing to delegate our future to the decisions of others, for after all, we mistakenly assume, “You can’t change Washington anyway.”
I think of the story about the preacher who was aggravated about his congregation’s lack of participation in church activities. Turning to one of his trusted deacons, the pastor asked, “Is it ignorance or apathy?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care,” the deacon blandly responded.
Knowledge of the issues we face these next four years and the impact they will have on us and our children replace ignorance and gives rise to action. If you think one vote doesn’t make any difference, ponder these facts compiled by church historian Leonard I. Sweet: In 1645, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England; in 1649, one vote caused Charles I of England to be executed; in 1845, one vote brought Texas into the Union; in 1868, one vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment; in 1875, one vote changed France from a monarchy to a republic; in 1876, one vote gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency of the United States; in 1923, one vote gave Adolf Hitler leadership of the Nazi party; in 1941, one vote put the draft into effect; in 1960, one vote per precinct in four states gave John F. Kennedy the presidency of the United States.
This Nov. 6, I’m going to drive to the polling place, get out of my car, thank the good Lord that people I don’t know fought and even died so I can freely walk into that voting booth with no military regime or religious group standing in my way, that I can vote for my candidate of choice without fear of losing my job or facing physical torture and that the Lord has given me a mind capable of perceiving the issues as best as I can.
And having cast my vote, I’ll proudly place one of those little “I voted” stickers on my shirt, look to the heavens and wink at Judge Loys Criswell for reminding me that as small as I may appear to be, I can be a part of an exciting process that makes tremendous differences.