FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – An Indiana official has spent the last few days encouraging Hoosiers to cast their vote in November, and is using an unknown, but apparently true, story to show the impact one vote can make.
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson’s office has a public service announcement that describes how one man’s vote in DeKalb County led to the country’s decision to go to war with Mexico, which would shape how the continental United States looks today.
The story in the PSA says that a man, Henry Shoemaker, made the tie-breaking vote to determine a State Representative, who would help select an Indiana’s U.S. Senator, who would cast the determining vote in if the country would go to war – a war the United States would win – shaping the country’s southwest border.
“This is a story that is known not only in Indiana, but throughout the country,” said Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics.
According to Downs, who said he’s only read about the story and had not looked up the data first-hand, in 1842, Shoemaker met a candidate for State Representative, Madison Marsh, who was running for the district that at the time covered all of DeKalb and Steuben counties. However, on Election Day, Shoemaker forgot to vote until late in the day. He hopped on his horse and rode 12 miles to Kendallville to cast his vote.
While Kendallville is not in either DeKalb or Steuben counties, it was something that could easily not have mattered during that time. In fact, the story is that Shoemaker’s ballot had neither Marsh nor his opponent, Enos Beal, on it. Shoemaker would make a make-shift ballot to write done Marsh’s name, and waited until the polls closed to make sure his vote indeed counted.
“Back in the day, when things didn’t have quite the systems that we have in place now, it was decided that vote pretty much looks like the voter intended to vote,” said Downs.
NewsChannel 15 looked at voting records Tuesday night at libraries in both counties. In DeKalb County, Marsh won by 97 votes, compared to the 97 vote-win Beal had in Steuben County.
“A vote somewhere else wouldn’t be found there,” said Downs. “Disputes or recounts for a State Representative seat would have to be resolved by the Indiana General Assembly or by the Indiana Election Division’s records.
The story is that Shoemaker’s vote would count, and Marsh would go on to elect Edward Hannegan to serve as a U.S. Senator.
“To those who weren’t around before the 17th Amendment, prior to 1913 the Senators were elected by the General Assembly,” Downs said. “This is true for all the states, which meant whoever was elected to the Indiana General Assembly, in effect, was making the decision of who would go to the Senate.”
Downs said Hannegan would make the decisive vote to send the country to war in 1846.
“It really is true that one vote can make a difference,” said Downs. “If people don’t believe that one vote can, we can actually find lots of examples where two or three votes can make a difference.”
Examples Downs come up with included a Fort Wayne Council race, which at the end of election night, Tom Henry was losing the race, but after a recount, it was found that Henry had more votes than his opponent.
According to a spokesperson with Lawson’s office, the PSA also ran before Election Day 2012.