Did Your One Vote Make the Difference?

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Of course it didn’t. Not a single Congressional or gubernatorial election will be decided by one vote. In fact, in any election that involves thousands of voters, as in a Congressional election, the odds of your one vote making a difference are basically equal to zero.

My fellow bloggers here on LRC have noted that one is more likely to die on the way to the polls than it is for one’s vote to be the deciding factor. This gives far too much credit to the odds of your vote making a difference. The odds of dying in a car crash on the way to the polls are relatively high. So we should note that one is more likely to be hit by a meteor or mauled to death by an ocelot that recently escaped from the zoo than is one likely to cast the deciding vote.

Elections aren’t decided by “counting all the votes” anyway. If an election is close, the deciding factor will be a series of lawsuits that will decide which votes are counted.  A judge will decide which votes are valid and which are not. And then his decision will be appealed. The 2000 presidential election should have been enough to disabuse anyone of the idea that elections come down to single votes.

Sure, some tiny local elections will come down to a single vote, but no major election will.

Sometimes, a pro-voting email makes the rounds listing all the times that one vote makes a difference. Most of these examples are in fact inaccurate, but all of them miss the point. All of them note votes taken in legislative bodies. No one denies that one vote can make a difference in a legislature of 500 people. Of course that kind of vote makes a difference. Your one vote among tens of thousands, on the other hand, will definitely not make a difference.

10:35 pm on November 2, 2010