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This new council member's vote for himself won him the election

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right, we hear it every election, and that is every vote counts, right? But there are still people who feel like their one vote will not change anything. Well, it turns out in some cases, that one vote can make all the difference. Last month, in the small community of Rainier, Wash., the race for city council was tight. One candidate decided not to cast a ballot for himself. The other candidate did vote for himself. And you know what? He ended up winning the whole race by a single vote. Newly elected city council member Ryan Roth joins us now. Welcome and congratulations.

RYAN ROTH: Hi. Thank you. Yeah, I appreciate it.

CHANG: (Laughter) So I have to ask, I mean, I'm assuming it felt awesome when you found out you won. But what was your reaction when you heard that you won by only one vote?

ROTH: I thought it was wild, man. I didn't - you know, the - I was watching the counts throughout the week - through the election week and month of - they post on Thurston County election website. And it just - the change of it was just so rapid all the time, you know, to where we were three behind and then tied for, like, three or four days, then all of a sudden, just one.

CHANG: (Laughter) What a nail-biter.

ROTH: I know. It's - I had no idea what was going to happen, if - this is my first time running, you know? So I had no idea what would happen if we tied or if it was by one or - so just not knowing was an intense deal.

CHANG: Well, your opponent, Damion Green, he's the one who did not vote. And obviously, that vote cost him his own election. Have you had a chance to talk to him about why he didn't vote, how he's feeling about the fact that he didn't vote?

ROTH: You know, I did talk to him. He called me after the day of the recount to congratulate me and saying he didn't vote and, you know, maybe he should have type of deal. But either way, like, he's a solid guy. And we were both going the same direction with our stances on different things. So it was like - like he said in an interview with somebody else, you know, a win is a win type of deal and...

CHANG: Yeah. He has been really gracious about this, hasn't he?

ROTH: Yeah.

CHANG: Yeah. I mean, do you feel kind of bad for him?

ROTH: No.

CHANG: (Laughter).

ROTH: No, I mean, why? I mean, you know, that's his, you know, opinion not to vote for himself. So I support that, you know? Whatever you believe in, you got to stay true to that. So, I believe it's my American right to vote, so I'm going to vote.

CHANG: But then I heard at one point, you - even though your name was on the ballot, that you yourself almost didn't turn in your ballot. What happened? Can you say why you almost didn't mail in your vote?

ROTH: (Laughter) Basically, I voted. I put it in my wife's purse 'cause I thought she was going to take it, you know...

CHANG: (Laughter).

ROTH: And she didn't see it, didn't know it. And then I kept telling her. We just kind of - she told me to do it. And it just - you know? And then - like, I got four kids. I manage a landfill. I work 10 hours a day and just being busy, you know what I mean?

CHANG: Yeah.

ROTH: And so I just, spaced it for the longest time, and got it in, like, at the last day. Got it in there, and...

CHANG: Thank God you did.

ROTH: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

CHANG: Well, like you said, Green has been very gracious so far. I had read that he said he didn't vote because he's never been very good at tooting his own horn, and that he also said a choice between you and him, I mean, it was just a win-win for voters.

ROTH: Yeah.

CHANG: So I'm just curious, now that you are the elected city council member, ultimately, has this whole episode changed your perspective on the importance of voting? What's the lesson you've learned?

ROTH: Absolutely. I mean, every vote does count no matter, you know, whatever your belief may be. I think every vote does count. And the process of, you know, like, counting by hand and counting with the votes, like, just the whole process of that is pretty bulletproof, man. Like, I had no idea what all goes into that - all the moving pieces and parts and people just to hold everything accountable was pretty cool to witness.

CHANG: Rainier City Council member-elect Ryan Roth, thank you so much and congratulations again.

ROTH: I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEHANI SONG, "COMFORTABLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Michael Levitt
Michael Levitt is a news assistant for All Things Considered who is based in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Political Science. Before coming to NPR, Levitt worked in the solar energy industry and for the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. He has also travelled extensively in the Middle East and speaks Arabic.
Kathryn Fox