Saturday, November 1, 2008

Folly or Legacy?

A One-Vote Oddity

 (Continued from page 118)


Seward had some difficulty making the case for the purchase of Alaska before the Senate which finally ratified the treaty by a margin of just one vote on April 9, 1867. On the misty afternoon of October 18, 1867, at the city of Sitka, on the desolate Alaska coast, amongst the firing of Russian and American cannon, the Imperial Russian flag came down over Russian America. The Stars and Stripes was raised up the 90 foot flag pole, and "Seward's Icebox" became the property of the United States.

An army garrison was established at Sitka and acted as the region’s government until 1877. In 1884, Congress passed an “Organic Act for Alaska,” which established the first civilian government. It wasn’t until 1912 that Alaska was given the full status of a territory—45 years after the purchase!

One vote brought a territory twice the size of Texas into the United States. One vote added 20% more territory to the United States of America. It was called “Seward’s Folly” but it has resulted in one of the greatest investments every made in the history of the world. Seward was right. It took a generation for the country to recognize the greatness of what he saw in 1867.

Folly or Legacy?

Sometimes the answer can only be seen in the next generation. But that is all the more reason to elect men and women who have the force of character and vision to stand by their convictions. Vote for leaders who will not be controlled by the jokes told about them in the press. Vote for leaders who have a vision of what is right and will stay on task. Vote for leaders who see a future brighter than today and with values consistent with the Scripture.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

An Attempt to Limit Presidentil Power

A One-Vote Oddity

The founders of the country and the writers of the Constitution knew first hand that government can be burdensome and corrupt—because they understood the nature of man. Therefore they built into our system of government a delicate and purposeful set of checks and balances to the various functions of government (Legislative, Executive and Judicial).
Inevitably, those balances would be challenged by the changing situation of the country and the malleable personalities of those in office. Such was the case in 1789.

The Constitution was clear. The President could make certain appointments after the senate had given “advise and consent.” But could the President dismiss appointees without the “advise and consent?” The Constitution was silent. Many in the Congress greatly feared Presidential power—executive privilege. Some senators feared that if the President had the ability to dismiss those that they (the Senate) had approved, that a future President with less character than Washington might abusively fire those appointees who turned out not to agree with him. Madison opposed them.

James Madison of Virginia claimed that if the Founding Fathers (of whom he was one) had intended to give this power to the Senate, they would have expressly included it in the Constitution. But since they did not do this, the right of removal was part of the general grant of power to the executive … Moreover, Madison argued, the President had the responsibility for the administration of the executive branch, and if he could not dismiss the head of a department without the Senate’s approval, the President would be “no longer answerable” for what might occur in the branch of government he headed.59

When the issue came to a vote in the Senate, it deadlocked at 10-10. The vice president cast his vote breaking the tie and the measure went down to defeat. Actaully, any measure ending in a tie in the Senate is automatically defeated. If a single vote had changed, the measure would have passed 11-9.

Pick men and women for office who know how to think well. They may be casting votes that last for decades--or longer.

59. Lindop, 14.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Supreme Court Makeup

A One-Vote Oddity

In 1973, The Vote Was 7-2. In 1986, the Vote Was 5-4. In 2010?


In the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, a Texas law banning abortion was struck down making abortion legal in all 50 states. By a vote of 7-2, the ruling in that original case made abortion legal through the second trimester of pregnancy. Another less known case that same year, titled Doe v. Doe, made abortion legal all the way up to birth and is relevant to the partial birth abortion debate of the present day.

In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled on a Pennsylvania law requiring doctors to tell patients of the possible detrimental physical and psychological effects of abortion and to provide information related to agencies that could help if the patient opted to give birth. By a 5-4 vote, the law was struck down.

Abortion advocates counted the vote as a success, but abortion opponents rejoiced that the margin was only one vote. Right-to-life supporters were also encouraged by the language of the dissenters.


Chief Justice Warren Burger called the ruling in the Pennsylvania case “astonishing” and suggested that Roe v Wade (which he had supported in 1973) should be “reexamined.” In another dissent, Justice Byron White, joined by Justice William Rehnquist, described the 1973 decision as “fundamentally misguided” and urged that it be overturned. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor echoed this philosophy when she said that Roe v. Wade had proved “unworkable.”57


Both the advocates for abortion and those opposed to abortion drew the same conclusion from the shrinking margin of support for Roe v. Wade: a one vote shift in the Supreme Court could make abortion illegal againProverbs 24:11 shows us the path of our responsibility:


Deliver those who are being taken away to death,

          And those who are staggering to slaughter,

         Oh hold them back!


Think about the make up of the Supreme Court when you cast your vote. It may be the most important thought you have.


57. Lindop, 122. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

I'm Glad Seward Wasn't Afraid of Criticism

A One-Vote Oddity

Seward’s Folly or Seward’s Legacy?


In 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward started negotiating with Czarist Russia before the President had given him permission to do so! Seward was a supporter of territorial expansion of the United States. He saw the acquisition of new territory as part destiny and necessity. He believed the nation needed to be able to protect itself from sea to sea and that required an expanded western coastline.

Seward offered the Russian government roughly 2.5 cents an acre or $7.2 million. The Alaskan purchase was ridiculed in Congress and in the press as "Seward’s Folly" and "Seward’s Icebox." Some called it “President Andrew Johnson’s polar bear garden." Seward was undaunted. He forged ahead, believing that the purchase was a wise investment for the nation. He became the butt of popular jokes in the press throughout the nation. When he was asked what was the most significant act of his career he replied, "The purchase of Alaska! But it will take a generation to find that out."

He was right. Despite a slow start in convincing citizens to settle in the new territory, Alaska began to increase in population and with it, exploration. Gold was discovered in the 1880’s, and then in 1898, the great Yukon River Gold Rush started and rapid population growth soon followed. New settlers found the environment both beautiful and harsh. But they also found the Alaskan territory to be rich in natural resources of coal, timber and furs and fish.

Twenty-two years after it was purchased and labeled “Seward’s Folly,” Alaska began to pay huge dividends for the country and its citizens. In 1946, Alaskans approved statehood, and in 1955, adopted a constitution. Finally, in 1959, President Eisenhower announced Alaska as the 49th state in the Union.

But it almost never happened.

Back in 1867, when jokes were flying about “Seward’s Folly” and President Johnson’s “polar bear garden,” there were powerful forces working against the Alaskan purchase. The Congress would have to appropriate the funds and the Senate would have to ratify the Treaty before the purchase could be consummated. On July 14, 1868, the House voted 113 to 43 (with 44 members not voting) to release the funds. The vote in the Senate was much closer.    (Continued on page 130)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Responsibility of the Voter

A One-Vote Oddity

Liberty Means Responsibility


The National Court Reporters Association Website reports the following One Vote anomalies:


In 1993, more than fifty of the state of Missouri's municipal elections ended in a tie.


In 1997, South Dakota Democrat John McIntyre led Republican Hal Wick 4,195 votes to 4,191 for the second seat in Legislative District 12 on election night. Naturally, a recount was asked for and granted. The recount showed Wick the winner at 4,192 votes to 4,191. (He gained one vote and his opponent lost four.) The State Supreme Court, however, ruled that one ballot counted for Wick was invalid due to an overvote. This left the race a tie. After hearing arguments from both sides, the state legislature voted to seat Wick by a vote of 46-20.


In 1998, Donald Sherwood was elected to the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania by a margin of 515 votes, less than one vote per precinct, making this election the closest House of Representatives race in 1998.


A wise man once said, “Liberty means responsibility...this is why most men dread it.”  Your liberty to vote was purchased by the blood of generations that have gone before you and some who, perhaps before you finish reading this sentence, will give their today. Do you dread and run from your responsibility or do you delight in and embrace your responsibility?  How important is your vote? Important enough that others have died to give it to you.

Your vote is yours to cast. No one can do it for you. Make sure you vote. Make sure that your vote is counted this election. Do your duty. Make a difference. Vote.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

When one vote made a difference

A One-Vote Oddity

More One Vote Oddities

I hope these candidates read Proverbs 16:33!

1973    One vote would have prevented the drawing of straws to determine the winner in the tied race for La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District.

1981    The same thing happened in a school district election inBelmontCA. One vote would have prevented the drawing of straws to determine the winner of Chon Gutierrez over his opponent Stanley Langland.

Is this really the guy you want to advise the governor?

1988    One vote lost the election for the Democratic candidate for the Massachusetts Governor's Council, Herbert Connolly—his own! He arrived too late at the polls to cast his own vote. 

Somebody voted for these guys!

1991    One dissenting vote among members of the board of directors of an anti-poverty agency in Sullivan County, New York, spared them the dubious distinction of tossing the First Amendment into the trash can.


The town has some real problems!

1996       One vote, was all that was cast as none of the town officials in LorettoKentucky qualified as candidates for re-election. The single vote was cast by an absentee elector. He was in the military stationed at Scott Air Force Base, and had the only write-in votes cast in the entire election for the Loretto town council.


        Could this happen in your town? How does it happen in any town? It happens when people assume their vote doesn’t count and are “absent without excuse” on Election Day. Don’t let it happen in your town. Go to the polls. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Feeling Good About Your Vote

A One-Vote Oddity

What if?


The Vanderbilt University Virtual School Website tells of an election occurring in 1950 that was decided by one vote. A state senator from Garrett County, Maryland was elected by one vote. The winner had 3,080, the loser, 3,079. I don’t know the name of either. I don’t know if one had a distinguished career as a public servant or if the other came back and later won a race for public office.

I just know that, according to the website, one man lost an election because another man had 3,080 to his 3,079 votes. I wonder what became of him—the loser that is. Did he move on to other things? Was the defeat so crushing that he retired from public life altogether? Was the state of Maryland better off without him in their senate chambers?

If he had won and his “stage” had been bigger, might he have become a U.S.Representative or Senator, or vice president or even President? The questions are endless aren’t they? The questions could go in any direction, positive or negative, endlessly. That is part of the fun and the frustration of playing “what if”? We don’t know, but we can play the speculation game forever.

What we do know is this: every election is an opportunity to cast a vote in an election that could be as close as that election in Maryland for the state senate in 1950. Two questions:


1) How would you feel if the man or woman sitting in office was not the man or woman you thought was best—but there they sit, by a one vote margin?


2) How would you feel if the man or woman you thought was best won, and the margin was one vote—your vote.


There is only one way to “feel” right about the election either way—go vote. Then you can say, you did your part to make your city, county, state or country better. That’s the privilege of living in a democratic republic. Don’t take it for granted