The Empirical Frequency of a Pivotal Vote

with Chip Hunter


Some economic theories of voting suggest that competition leads to close elections, and that election closeness is a factor for bringing voters to the polls. How often in fact are civic elections decided by one vote? One of every 89,000 votes cast in U.S. Congressional elections, and one of 15,000 in state legislator elections, "mattered" in the sense that they were cast for a candidate that tied or won by one vote. We find an inverse relationship between election size and the frequency of one vote margins. Recounts, and other margin-specific election procedures, are determinants of the pivotal vote frequency.

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© copyright 2001-3 by Casey B. Mulligan and Charles G. Hunter.