How Many Votes Do You Need To Win?


How many votes do you need to win a local election? In its most simple form, the winning formula is:

Expected Vote x .50 + 1 vote = Minimum Votes to Win (50%)
Expected Vote x .52 = Comfortable Margin of Victory (52%)

That’s the quick and dirty calculation for a majority win. Pulling together real-world numbers gets a little trickier. To calculate more accurately how many potential voters you need to win, you’ll need some hard numbers and some educated guesses.

Find the total population of your district:
The total population includes all the people who live in your district, regardless of whether they can vote or not.

Determine the total number of voters:
This is all the voters in the district who are eligible to vote and can possibly vote in the election.

What is the expected voter turnout?
This is the expected number of votes cast in this election. Not every voter is going to vote. In this case, let history be your guide. If 40% of eligible voters voted in the last local election, and there is nothing that will change the situation, figure that the same 40% will vote again. It the election falls on a presidential election date, check what the turnout was during that year and use it for your baseline percentage.

Calculate the number of votes needed:
If you need a majority of the votes to win, the formula above is what your need (50% of turnout plus one vote). In some cases you may only need a plurality of the votes cast or more votes than any other candidate in the race. In a multi-candidate race, you could win with a distinct minority of the vote.

This percentage must be converted into a number of actual votes that will guarantee your victory.


Say you have 10,000 people in your district. Of those people, only 6,000 are eligible voters. On the last election, 2400 (0r 40%) of eligible voters actually voted. The election does not fall on the presidential election day, and it is only a two-person race. In this case you will need a minimum of 1201 votes to squeak through a victory. (50% of turnout plus one vote).

It’s best to err on the side of caution and overestimate the number of votes you need. In this case, we’ll round up and calculate with 52% of the turnout, which gives us a rough target of 1248 votes that will be needed to win. This number, of course will be subject to the overall voter turnout and how many supporters you can get into the voting booth.

Related: How Many Households Must I Reach to Win A Local Election?

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By Shane Daley

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