EDITORIAL: Your vote could decide Tuesday's 16th Senate District election

Politics is changing. The popularity of voting by mail and voting early is increasing. Independent expenditure groups funnel huge amounts of money into national, state and even local races. Get-out-the-vote campaigns are more sophisticated. Social media has become part of the fabric, too, with supporters of candidates trading insults and accusations on Facebook and Twitter.

One thing remains constant: the power of a single vote.

Since May 21, Fresnans have cast ballots in two special elections decided by thin margins.

In the primary to decide who will replace Michael Rubio as District 16 senator, Hanford cherry farmer Andy Vidak, a Republican, appeared to have won the seat outright, thus avoiding a runoff.

News stories told of Vidak's "convincing victory" over Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez of Bakersfield, a Democrat, lawyer and former state legislative aide. Believing that she had lost the election, Perez even conceded the next day, and Vidak received a congratulatory phone call from the opposing team -- Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento.

But when all the votes were tabulated, Perez had forced Tuesday's runoff election by a mere 114 votes out of 63,448 cast.

Fresno's Measure G election on June 4 to decide whether a private company would take over garbage collection from city employees wasn't that close.

But the outcome remained up in the air for eight days, when the No on G side finally took an insurmountable 801-vote lead. Finally tally: 862 more votes for No than Yes among 58,940 cast.

Following the two elections, Fresno County Clerk/Registrar of Voters Brandi Orth wrote an opinion for The Bee explaining the Election Code, the strict rules governing the counting of votes, the need for elections to be open and transparent to the public and the importance of voters updating their signature cards if their handwriting changes.

If today's Senate 16 election is close -- and we expect it to be -- there likely will be more controversy over signatures and provisional ballots. Provisional ballots, Orth said, "are issued to voters who appear at a polling place where they are not listed on the roster, or if they have already been issued a vote-by-mail ballot. The voter is allowed to cast a ballot sealed in a pink provisional envelope. This provisional envelope requires individual examination by the downtown elections office after election day."

You can bet that observers from the Perez and Vidak camps will watch the vote counts and signature verifications closely at elections offices throughout the district.

We have been disappointed by the tenor of both campaigns. There has been too much pettiness and name calling; too little discussion of issues that matter to District 16 votes.

But the rampant negativity, while an incentive to tune out, is not a reason to drop out.

Your vote could be the one that decides your state senator.