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Milt Hankins: Don't underestimate importance of your vote

Nov. 02, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Election Day (Nov. 6 ) is fast approaching. Our country will be electing a leader for the next four years. Politicians are running for national, state, and local offices.

Many of us (yes, including me) are sick and tired of the ads, the saturation news, the bickering, debating, arguing and the incessant telephone calls. At our house, we don't answer the phone anymore if it says "Unknown Caller." We've studied the issues, made up our minds and are not going to be otherwise persuaded.

Some folks throw up their hands and say, "What's the point? My vote doesn't count anyway!"

It is true that the presidential election will be decided in that strange, ethereal institution known as the Electoral College which is a part of the U. S. Constitution. Many people do not understand the Electoral College, and most people believe that the president is elected by popular vote.

The president will be elected by the Electoral College, but that does not mean your vote doesn't count! It's important that the candidates achieve the highest popular vote possible, even if they lose the election. That sounds strange, but it's true. A number of presidents have gone to the White House with far less than a majority of the popular vote.

There have been a few cases when the candidates tied for the vote in the Electoral College. Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams were actually elected by the U. S. House of Representatives. Rutherford B. Hayes was elected by Special Electoral Commission, and George W. Bush was elected by way of a decision by the U. S. Supreme Court.

Admittedly, it's complicated, but your vote does count. When a president is elected with a particularly high popular vote, he may consider it a "mandate" from the people -- an overwhelming approval of his platform and programs. Lyndon Johnson was often called "Landslide Lyndon," and Richard Nixon, as a result of receiving the largest margin of popular votes cast up to his time (1972), assumed remarkable (and sometimes bizarre) liberties in the Oval Office.

Receiving a high number of popular votes, however, does not necessarily mean that a president will be successful in office. Ulysses S. Grant, Warren G. Harding and Richard Nixon come to mind. And some presidents who were elected with less than a majority of the popular vote were extremely successful. James K. Polk and Abraham Lincoln come to mind.

Most importantly, our vote counts because we are exercising our right as Americans to participate in the electoral process.

In our own Tri-State area, West Virginia and Kentucky will likely cast their popular votes and, as a result, their electoral votes for Governor Romney. In Ohio, a battleground state, it's virtually impossible to predict which way the political winds are blowing. It's extremely important that Ohioans exercise their voting rights. Historically, no Republican has ever won the presidency without Ohio.

Go to the polls and support your choices. Get involved in the process. Your vote really is important!

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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