How do elections work? Does your vote really count? Could your single vote really make a difference?
See below. But first… Regular readers of this blog know that I teach a course every summer to rising tenth-graders where one unit is Models of Voting, as I’ve discussed before in several posts:
- Bullet voting, pro and con (9/25/2005)
- Some useful resources for the mathematics of elections (4/2/2019)
- Bullet voting: Why it may be a good idea (10/24/2009)
- Election math (10/28/2019)
There’s always some student who asks “Why should I vote? My vote can’t possibly make a difference. Everyone knows who’s gonna win.”
I then point out that that attitude is one of the reasons Donald Trump is president: if a small number of potential voters in each precinct in a handful of states had voted in 2016 instead of staying home, Trump wouldn’t have won. But that’s pretty abstract, as the set of precincts involved are halfway across the country and anyway we’re talking about a cumulative effect, not really just one vote. But now we have a close-to-home example where a single vote really did determine the result: the just-completed recount for last month’s Boston City Council (BCC) election. The BCC provides one of the models that we study every summer, and the majority of our students live in Boston, so it’s worth spending a few hours on. And now… we have Julia Mejia’s victory in her first-time candidacy for the BCC, which she won by only ten votes — and then came the recount, which she won by a single vote! So every vote does count. Read the entire story in the Boston Globe article.