One vote.

Just one vote won the election for Kristina Port in the race against incumbent Justin Madden for a seat on the Russell Township Board of Trustees.

During the Nov. 5 general election, the two candidates faced off, with Ms. Port initially winning 583 to Mr. Madden’s 579 votes. That’s a four-vote margin. But election laws are clear. All initial counts on Election Day are considered unofficial and must be certified by boards of elections.

The Geauga County Board of Elections officials said they would add in absentee or overseas ballots, if any, check signatures and take other steps to verify the numbers. Then the board would decide if a recount was needed. It was in this race. The recount in the Port-Madden nonpartisan race resulted in a final, official and certified count of 589 to 588, in Ms. Port’s favor.

A single vote pushed her over the top.

“Winning by one vote is better than winning by a coin toss,” she told the Times after the final tally was announced.

One-vote margins can happen anywhere. Some razor-close races have been decided by a coin toss or a drawing out of a hat.

In 2017, Democrat Shelly Simonds won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates by one vote. That triggered a recount resulting in a tie. She ultimately lost the election to Republican David Yancey in a drawing.

In 2018, Democrat Jim Glenn beat incumbent Republican D.J. Johnson for the District 13 seat in the Kentucky House of Representative by just one vote.

One-vote margins are rare, but they have happened throughout U.S. history. And when it does, it is a reminder of why we all need to go to the polls. Every ballot counts, whether it’s a presidential year brimming with candidates or a midterm election when the focus is on local races.

Casting a ballot on a regular basis is both a right and a responsibility. Yet in recent elections in this region, voter turnout has been extremely low. According to the Geauga elections board, of the 64,410 registered voters in the county, only 22,231 cast ballots on Nov. 5. That’s 34.5 percent. Of the 849,193 registered voters in Cuyahoga County, only 219,784 cast ballots on Nov. 5, according to the elections board. That’s 25.8 percent.

These numbers don’t reflect adults who are eligible to vote but have not registered. About 24 percent of the voting-eligible population in the U.S. is not registered to vote, according to government studies. Though more people go to the polls during presidential election years, the general election turnout in Ohio for 2016, 2012 and 2008 was only around 70 percent, according to Ohio Secretary of State statistics.

Voting matters. It gives citizens a voice in local, state and national races. It allows people to select leaders on councils and school boards. Citizens choose their governor, judges and prosecutors as well as the office holders charged with keeping watch over the treasury and the election process.

Tax rates and school funding or new property zoning all are decided at the ballot box by voters.

We are encouraged to see grassroots groups form either to support or fight against issues such as rezoning, as seen in Solon and Pepper Pike.

Voting is an important way to take part in and keep our democracy strong. It’s not too early to start thinking about the next trip to the polls with Ohio’s primary election set for March 17, 2020.

One person, one vote.

That one vote could join with others to support or defeat a candidate or tax levy. And that one ballot may very well decide an election. The Russell Township trustee race reminds us that one vote really does count.

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