When A Single Vote Matters
By Mark Uncapher
Here’s a flashback:
On November 4, 2014, based on averages of polling results from multiple sources, Anthony Brown was leading Larry Hogan by just under 10%, with the polling trends moving against Hogan. Consequently, political punditry website FiveThirtyEight gave Brown a 94% chance of being elected Maryland Governor.[i]
We know how that turned out.
Fast forward two years to 2016. The same FiveThirtyEight website gave Donald Trump a far greater likelihood of being elected president than other polling-based models. Their final forecast gave Trump a 29% chance of winning the Electoral College. Other media political soothsayers tracked by The New York Times put Trump’s odds at: 15%, 8%, 2% and even less than 1%.[i]The betting markets put Trump’s chances at just 18% at midnight Election Eve 2016.[ii]
Again, as we know now, the “conventional wisdom” of what many people “knew” was going to happen in an election turned out to be completely wrong.
If you assume you know what this year’s election outcome will be and therefore assume your vote might not be necessary, I hope this grabs your attention. Elections are often not as predictable as the media talking heads would have us believe.
Still, your own vote matters.
In this year’s Montgomery County Democratic primary, out of over 130,000 votes cast, the winning margin was just 80 votes, a margin of .00061 or six one hundredths of 1%. The Baltimore County Democratic primary this year was even closer. The winner had only 17 more votes out of 87,000 votes cast. That margin was less than 2 one hundreds of 1%.[iii]
Still, the cynic may wonder how much can a single vote matter?
Last year, party control of the Virginia House of Delegates came down to a single tied election. A state election official broke the deadlock by pulling one candidate’s name out of a stoneware bowl, a random drawing required under Virginia law.[iv]
On Election Day, the Republican candidate appeared to win the race by 10 votes, but a recount put the Democrat ahead by one vote. The next day, a three-judge recount court ruled that a single ballot that had been discarded during the recount should be tallied for the Republican. As a result, the race was tied with each candidate having 11,608 votes.
Although this “tied” district had over 55,000 registered voters, only about 40% voted. Therefore, any one of over 32,000 voters who neglected to vote could have produced a different election outcome.[v]
When the Republican candidate won the random drawing, Virginia Republicans claimed a 51-to-49 majority in the House of Delegates. This year, several key legislative votes turned on that Republican victory in a single legislative seat.
If you have not voted yet in 2018, do so on Tuesday. Also, since we all know those procrastinators who need some reminding before they act, be sure to give them the nudge they need as well. Each and every vote matters.
[i] https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/ Also see https://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/news/2014/11/04/anthony-brown-has-94-chance-of-becoming-marylands.html and https://fivethirtyeight.com/