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He won his seat on council by a single vote — which he cast himself

Ryan Roth's single vote made all the difference.
Ryan Roth
Ryan Roth's single vote made all the difference.

Every election, we are told that each vote counts. But there are still people who feel like their lone ballot will not change anything.

Well, it turns out, for one man a single vote made all the difference.

Who is he? Ryan Roth is the newly-elected city council member in Rainier, Wash.

  • Roth, who is a landfill manager and father of four, ran a campaign in the small town of about 2,400 people.
  • His competitor, Damion Green, did not campaign, but had run for city council in the past.

What's the big deal? In one of those stranger-than-fiction moments (and basically the plot of the 1999 movie Election) the vote between Roth and Green was decided by one singular vote.

And that vote turned out to be Roth's own ballot for himself. Green did not make it to the polls.

Ryan and Tandra Roth on the campaign trail.
/ Ryan Roth
Ryan Roth
Ryan and Tandra Roth on the campaign trail.

Want more on the politics? Listen to Consider This explore the career of Mike Johnson.

What are people saying? Roth joined All Things Considered host Ailsa Chang to chat about his victory and the unbelievable outcome of betting on himself.

On his reaction to winning by one vote:

I thought it was wild, man. I was watching the counts throughout the week – through the election week, they post on the Thurston County election website.

The change of it was just so rapid all the time, to where we were three behind, and then tied for, like, three or four days, then all of a sudden, just one.

I had no idea what was going to happen. 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, so just not knowing was an intense deal.

On how he feels about Green not voting for himself:

You know, I did talk to him. He called me after the day of the recount to congratulate me, saying he didn't vote and maybe he should have.

But either way, he's a solid guy. And we were both going the same direction with our stances on different things. So it was like he said in an interview with somebody else, it's a win-win type of deal.

On how he almost didn't get to submit his ballot:

I put it in my wife's purse 'cause I thought she was going to take it, you know ... and she didn't see it, didn't know it.

And then I kept telling her, and she told me to do it. And then – I got four kids, I manage a landfill, I work 10 hours a day and with just being busy, you know what I mean?

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

So, what now? Roth says that one of the biggest takeaways for him is the importance of casting your vote.

  • "I mean, every vote does count no matter whatever your belief may be," he said. "I think every vote does count. And the process of counting by hand, and counting with the votes, is pretty bulletproof, man."
  • So next time you're hesitant about posting a photo of yourself on Instagram, remember you can always count on yourself for a like.

Learn more:

The interview with Ryan Roth was conducted by Ailsa Chang, produced by Michael Levitt and edited by Kathryn Fox. contributed to this story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: December 8, 2023 at 11:00 PM CST
An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the city of Rainier, Wash.
Manuela López Restrepo
Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.