When A Single Vote Matters

The “conventional wisdom” of what many people think they "know" will happen turns out to be completely wrong.

Beware of those who claim to be sure how elections will turn out

Here’s a flashback:

On November 4, 2014, based on averages of polling results from multiple polls, Anthony Brown led 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.  In 2016 the same FiveThirtyEight website gave Trump a far greater likelihood of being elected than other polling-based forecasters. However, their final forecast gave Trump only a 29% chance of winning the Electoral College.  Other political media tracked by the New York Times put Trump’s odds at 15%, 8%, 2%, and even less than 1%.[ii] The betting markets put Trump’s chances at just 18% at midnight Election Eve 2016.[iii]

Again, as we know now, the “conventional wisdom” of what many people thought they “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 vote matters.

Elsewhere in 2014, in Maryland’s congressional district six, Republican Dan Bongino surprisedly held the Democratic incumbent to less than 50% of the vote.  Only the presence of a third-party candidate allowed the incumbent to squeak through.[iv]

In Montgomery County’s Democratic 2018 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 that year was even closer.  The winner had only 17 more votes out of 87,000 votes cast.  That margin was less than two one-hundreds of 1%.[v]

The cynic may still question, but how much can a single vote matter?

Party control of the Virginia House of Delegates came down to a single tied election in 2017.   A state election official broke the deadlock by pulling one candidate’s name out of a bowl, a random drawing required under Virginia law.[vi]

On Election Day, the Republican candidate appeared to win the race by ten votes, but a recount put the Democrat ahead by one vote. The next day, a three-judge recount court ruled that a single ballot discarded during the recount should be counted for the Republican.  As a result, the race tied, with each candidate having 11,608 votes.

This “tied” district had over 55,000 registered voters, yet only about 40% voted.  Therefore, any one of over 32,000 voters who neglected to vote could have produced a different election outcome.[vii]

When the Republican candidate won the random drawing, Virginia Republicans claimed a 51-to-49 majority in the House of Delegates.  Afterward, several critical legislative votes turned on that Republican victory in a single legislative seat.

However, you plan to vote this year: in-person on election day, at an early voting location or by mail-in ballot, be sure to do so.  If you have requested a mail-in ballot, do not delay returning it. Also, since we all know 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/

[ii]https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/presidential-polls-forecast.html

[iii]https://electionbettingodds.com/WIN_chart_maxim_lott_john_stossel.html[iv]https://elections.maryland.gov/elections/2014/results/General/gen_results_2014_2_008X.html[v]http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-co-recount-results-20180714-story.html

[vi]https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/republican-yancey-picked-in-random-lottery-declared-winner-of-pivotal-va-house-race/2018/01/04/9c9caa5a-f0a1-11e7-b390-a36dc3fa2842_story.html

[vii]https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/republican-yancey-picked-in-random-lottery-declared-winner-of-pivotal-va-house-race/2018/01/04/9c9caa5a-f0a1-11e7-b390-a36dc3fa2842_story.html