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. The population includes those who are not eligible to vote because they are not citizens or, for whatever reason, cannot register.
Determine the total number of voters:
This comprises 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 all things being similar, you can figure that roughly 40% will vote again. It the election falls on a national election date in November, check what the turnout was during that year and use it for your baseline percentage.
Check out our free podcast series.
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.
How many votes does a candidate need to win? Say you have 10,000 people in your district. Of those people, only 6,000 are eligible voters. On the last election, 2400 (or 40%) of eligible voters actually voted. The election did not fall on a national election day, and it was 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). This assumes your current election will have a similar voter turnout rate as previous elections.
For more accurate results, take an average of the numbers from the last few elections.
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. Of course, this number will be subject to the overall voter turnout and how many supporters you can get into the voting booth.
Note: The votes needed to win a US Presidential Election is calculated a bit differently. The US President and Vice President are not elected by a direct vote. Instead, a body of 528 Electors choose the candidate through a process called the Electoral College. To be elected to the office of President or Vice President, the candidate needs more than half – at least 270 votes – to win the election.
- Related: How Many Households Must You Reach to Win A Local Election?
- For more online campaigning tips, sign up for political tips and updates.
Why Starting Your Campaign Website Early Makes Sense »