We often are told that we should vote. Yet, how many of us have ever participated in an election where our vote was the deciding one? Consider that a national or statewide election usually consists of millions of votes, the opportunity to be the deciding vote is clearly very rare. However, not to long ago there was a national vote that was extremely close and it had huge consequences on the course of history.
November 7, 2000 appeared to be a normal voting day in the United States. Two major party candidates as well as several dedicated third-party ones were running for the premier office—the Presidency of the United States. What would transpire that evening and the subsequent days caught most of us by surprise and its ultimate outcome certainly reminds us of the importance of voting.
George W. Bush beat Albert Gore by winning the electoral votes by less than 1% (actually, 0.93%) in one of the closest races in history; Gore actually won the popular vote by 1% (actually, 0.51%), or 540,000+ votes. And while these are very close numbers indeed, nothing was closer than what took place in the state of Florida (although there were 5 states that were decided by less than a 0.5% margin—and all of these others narrowly supported Gore over Bush).
When all the votes were “counted” and confirmed (though 20 U.S. Representatives objected to the Florida recount), Bush won the Florida popular vote over Gore by a mere 547 votes. Now, the closeness of this result needs to be properly understood. In the state of Florida, there were nearly 6 million votes counted for the U.S. Presidency in 2000. Thus, 547 votes out of 6 million represents 0.009%. Converted into a language that we might understand better, this represents approximately 1 in 10,000. Thus, if just 1 in every 10,000 voters had voted for Gore, rather than Bush (or any other Presidential candidate on the ballot), Gore would have won the state of Florida’s 25 electoral votes, and, therefore, the election. Now that is about as close as it gets!
(This mathematical exercise ignores the huge issue of voter suppression revealed in 2000, which continues today, and the amazing potentiality of voter fraud given the issue of “hanging-chads” or electronic voting machines (that often had/have no credible validation option). These are huge omissions and for the sake of completion, links to such issues are provided below, for interested parties.)