Really. It does.

In the spring of 2010, I decided to throw my hat into the proverbial political ring to run for the newly-redistricted open seat on the non-partisan Board of Education in Prince George’s County, MD. Despite my eventual (spoiler alert!) loss, I remain incredibly proud of the race I ran. Low on funds but high on passion and commitment, my team and I knocked on thousands of doors, attended dozens and dozens of community events, stuffed and mailed thousands of “Dear Neighbor” letters, and so much more. I racked up endorsement after endorsement (one of my proudest moments being when The Washington Post called me “smart and savvy”!) and worked harder than I’ve ever worked on anything in my life. Even my young children were involved: who could resist being won over by an adorable kid in a “Vote for my Mom” t-shirt?

But at the end of the day, on November 2, 2010, I lost, and not by much. After the absentee ballots were counted and the results certified, I lost by 321 votes, out of more than 18,000 votes cast. That’s a margin of 1.75% and breaks down to about 11 votes at each of my district’s precincts. 11 votes!

For weeks I obsessed over those 11 votes, wondering how I could have reached 11 more people in each precinct. What if I had just gone back to neighborhood X another time? What if we had done 50 more Get Out The Vote calls? What if I had made it to a third community forum on that one particularly busy evening?

And then I got frustrated when I realized the drop-off that took place in each of my precincts. At one location, where 980 people had voted for Governor, for example, only 866 cast a ballot for Board of Education. That’s a 12% drop off!

When I look back at my campaign today, I remain so proud of what I did – of what my family and friends did. We ran an amazing, grassroots campaign and involved many folks in the political process for the first time in their lives. I was so proud when my brother told me that in a subsequent election he spent time researching the down-ballot candidates because he felt if everyone had researched my race, I definitely would have won. (Do I have a great brother or what?)

You can take it from me that your vote, your ONE vote, really does count. And it counts at the bottom of the ticket as much as at the top of the ticket—or perhaps even more! I’m guessing most folks will go to the ballot box knowing who their pick is for President, Senator, and probably even their U.S. Representative. But I urge everyone to visit Vote411.org to research the candidates, questions, referendums, and amendments below those top-ticket big-money races.

Speaking as someone whose name was literally the last one on the ballot, I’m here to tell you that those elections are pretty important, too, and your one vote can make all the difference.