Calculating Your Vote Goal
April 18, 2020
Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly how many votes you need to win?
While you’ll never figure out the exact number, you can make a pretty good guess.
If you haven’t figured out your vote goal yet, we’re here to help!
What’s a vote goal?
Your vote goal is the number of votes you’ll aim to receive on Election Day. This is one of the most important numbers to focus on, and you’ll use it to make strategic decisions throughout your campaign.
How do you calculate a vote goal?
The key to calculating your vote goal is to analyze past election results for the office you’re seeking and use them to determine how many you’ll likely need to win.
Look to the Past
Let’s imagine you’re running in 2022 for Bear County School Board.
This means that your last three election results need to be from 2018, 2014, and 2010. Why? You need to choose the last three elections most similar to your own. Presidential election years often have higher turnouts, and these results may skew your information. So if your election is in an off-year or a non-presidential year, use the turnout numbers from other non-presidential years.
There’s no perfect way to make a turnout projection. It’s an estimate you make using the best information available to you at the time.
Here are turnout results for the Bear County School Board. These results will influence our range of voter turnout projections.
Take the highest turnout rate from 2018 (45%), 2014 (40%), and 2010 (38%).
The highest rate is 45%, from 2018. Use this as the high-end for projected voter turnout for 2022 of about 45%; a conservative estimate (planning to need more votes than less) of how many voters are likely to turn out this election.
Now you need the other end of your projection range. You already have an overestimated projection, so now you should look for a more reasonable estimate, indicating lower voter turnout. To get that, you should average the turnout rates.
Average the turnout rates from 2018, 2014, and 2010.
.45 + .40 + .38 = 1.23
1.23 ÷ 3 = .41
This gives us an estimate of 41% of voters actually turning out to vote.
Do the Math
The last step is figuring out your comfortable margin of victory (how many votes you want to win by), then calculating your registered voters that vote by that number. For our purposes, a comfortable margin of victory should be 55%.
In our example, 7,317 people are currently registered to vote. You can apply your conservative, or reasonable, voter turnout projections to this number.
Apply your highest projected turnout rate of 45% to this, and you’ll find that around 3,293 of them will come out to vote. Apply your reasonable turnout rate of 41% to this, and you’ll find that around 3,000 of them will come out to vote. So, you expect turnout to be somewhere between 3,000 and 3,293 voters
To be safe, you should aim to work with that higher turnout of 3,293 voters. After all, you have nothing to lose if you estimate a turnout that ends up being higher than the actual amount of voters that come out to vote. With a margin of victory of 55%, you can expect to target 1,811 voters.
7,317 x .45 = 3,293 projected voters
3,292 x .55 = 1,811 voters needed to win
Your vote goal is 1,811 voters.
Ready for more?
There’s much more to finding your vote goal than only calculating your vote goal. To learn more about voter persuasion, GOTV efforts, and mistakes to avoid when calculating your vote goal, check out our online course on Calculating Your Vote Goal.
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