BY RAFFI HAMPARIAN
Do you have more than one friend who is registered to vote?
If your answer is yes, then you are a political power-broker.
In our America today, more and more elections are being decided by smaller and smaller margins. That goes for mayoral contests, state legislative races and, as you have seen, for Congressional elections and even the race for the White House.
Just ask Todd Thomsen who defeated Darrel Nemecek, by a grand total of two votes, in their 2006 race for a seat in the Oklahoma State House (25th District). The exact margin of victory – the two votes – represented 0.020846% of the total votes cast in the election, which was 9,594.
The simple truth is that two people, you and your registered voter friend for example, could have sent Mr. Nemecek to the Oklahoma legislature and not the other way around. That is a lot of power for two people to have, but that is the power our democracy gives you, to your registered voter friend, and really, to all of us.
The history of razor close elections in the United States is the stuff of legend. Consider the Bush/Gore race in Florida in 2000 that came down to 537 votes out of a total of 5,962,657, and was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Or consider the lesser known fact that only 174 votes out of a total of 677,944 cast helped former President Theodore Roosevelt defeat Woodrow Wilson in the California presidential primary of 1912.
All of these examples, from Todd Thomsen in Oklahoma to Theodore Roosevelt’s razor thin victory in California, are clear evidence that close elections happen. I believe close elections will continue on pace, especially with American voters becoming more evenly divided between their visions of how our nation should be governed. This largely even split between the American electorate provides Armenian American voters powerful leverage to play a decisive role, in local, state and federal races during the 2012 elections cycle. As a community, we represent the full spectrum of American political thought, but – when Armenian issues are concerned – Armenian American voters have shown a truly remarkable willingness to cross party lines to back candidates who support our issues.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) knows the value of our votes. That is why, earlier this year, this grassroots organization, led by its dynamic West Coast office in the Los Angeles area, launched the HyeVotes initiative. The goal of this smartly designed project was to register as many Armenian Americans voters as possible and rally an unprecedented Get Out The Vote campaign across states like California, Nevada and Colorado.
Fortunately, the ANCA HyeVotes campaign saw the convergence of two welcome forces: grassroots energy from dozens of ANCA volunteers and thousands of Armenian Americans who were not registered to vote. By knocking on doors, attending Church festivals, calling voters, and sending thousands of email messages, the Hyevotes initiative has registered not 100 new voters, not 500 – but thousands of new voters.
With polling showing President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney in a statistical dead heat and with dozens of other local, state and federal races too close to call – we do not need an MIT mathematician to tell us this will be a historically close election cycle. To be sure, especially in swing states like Nevada, Colorado and Florida, every vote will count. And here in California, where I live, it is likely that any number of races are bound to be decided by a small number of votes.
We all know that very little is certain in politics. Electoral outcomes cannot be guaranteed. Candidates can’t simply work their way to victory. And even the smartest political observers – from syndicated columnist George Will on the right to MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on the left – cannot reliably predict electoral winners and losers.
There is at least one certainty in politics. If you don’t participate, you have no chance of electing your chosen candidate or advancing an issue you care about.
That said, I am certain of this, the ANCA Hyevotes campaign is making a remarkably positive impact on our community and common cause during the 2012 election cycle.
And if, even for a moment, you think the success of the ANCA Hyevotes initiative is of little consequence, just ask Al Gore. My guess is that he could have used 538 Armenian American votes in Florida in the fall of 2000.
Raffi Haig Hamparian is a member of the Armenian National Committee of America’s national Board of Directors.