Correction Appended: An earlier version of this article inaccurately reported that LSA senior Yousef Rabhi is 21 years old. He is 22.
The returns had been counted and re-counted, but LSA senior Yousef Rabhi was still in disbelief over Tuesday’s primary election results.
The race had literally come down to a single vote in favor of the 22-year-old Rabhi, who defeated three opponents in the primary — including the former chief of administration for the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office — to land a spot as the Democratic Party’s candidate for the 11th District Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.
Rabhi announced his candidacy in January, when he assembled a team of supporters and launched a campaign website. Since then, he has garnered the endorsements of three Ann Arbor City Council members and one current member of the Board of Commissioners. He also has the public backing of the Michigan Democratic Party’s LGBT Caucus.
But as Rabhi was quick to acknowledge in an impromptu victory speech, this election was all about individual voters — and in his case, an individual vote.
Rabhi secured 998 votes, which was exactly one vote ahead of his closest opponent, Mike Fried.
“It’s only one vote, so, you know, it’s not too much,” Rabhi told the supporters who had gathered at Dominick’s to hear the results.
In front of his supporters, Rabhi talked about going door-to-door earlier that day and encouraging voters to head to the polls.
The 11th district encompasses a significant part of the University community, including the largely student-filled neighborhoods around Fifth Avenue and Oakland Avenue.
Rabhi said he spent election day walking through these neighborhoods and encouraging students to vote. He told the story of the last person from whom he earned a vote.
“She was sitting on a bench … and was like, ‘I don’t know,’ so I said [she] could ride my moped to the polls,” Rabhi said.
For the voter — LSA student Corrie Janssens — that was incentive enough.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Janssens said she had no idea who Rabhi was before he came to Debs Co-op at about 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
“He just came in and asked everyone, ‘Did you vote?’” Janssens said. “I think he saw that I was wavering a little, so he said I could take his scooter and vote with that. I decided to do it.”
Janssens said she fell off the moped just as she was arriving at the polling station. Despite scrapes to the leg and shoulder, Janssens said she still managed to cast her vote.
“I was bleeding and had some minor injuries, but I voted anyway,” Janssens said. “And obviously it paid off.”
In his post-election speech, Rabhi half-jokingly acknowledged Janssens as the voter who single-handedly decided the election.
On the way to a bigger post-primary party at the Arbor Brewing Company, Rabhi and his campaign team discussed other stories like Janssens’ — examples of individual voters who directly contributed to Rabhi’s win.
“If none of the students had voted, we would have lost,” said Christine Muscat, Rabhi’s campaign manager.
“It’s really amazing that … the student vote changed the election,” she said.
In an interview with the Daily after his speech, Rabhi said his narrow win was “symbolic of the [importance] of the student vote.”
“Students came out to vote … and those votes made the difference,” Rabhi said.
Current member of the Board Conan Smith (D — 10th District) — who publicly backed Rabhi’s campaign — said he had several reasons to be happy about the election results.
“For Yousef, who’s worked so incredibly hard and brought great spirit to the process, it’s a very fitting victory,” Smith said.
Smith added that the extraordinarily closeness of the race also sends a positive message to prospective voters.
“It really reminds people of the importance of that single vote,” Smith said. “If you’re wondering whether or not [your vote] matters, yes, it does.”