Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day Statistics

Just in case you didn’t make it to the polling place to cast your ballot, don’t get too anxious--there’s a good chance your one vote won’t be the one that decides the election. Unless you live in New Mexico.According to a statistical study reported by AP on Nov. 2, the odds of voting for president and having your ballot be the deciding one cast are 60 million to 1.

In some states, the odds of being the vote that tips the election to your candidate are much better. In others they are astronomically worse. In fact, you are far more likely to be hit by lightning. Twice.For some people, though, the odds approach fathomable numbers. Residents of swing states have the best odds of swinging the election, based not on the size of the state but the likelihood the race will be close and their state will make the difference in the Electoral College.

In New Mexico, the odds are 1 in 6.1 million of a voter casting the ultimate deciding vote. “If you’re in New Mexico, you have a better chance of having your vote matter than winning the New York Lottery,” said study co-author Aaron Edlin, a professor of economics and law at the University of California, Berkeley.

In Virginia, the odds are 1 in 7.9 million. New Hampshire residents have 1 in 8 million chance of being the key vote. In Colorado, the odds are 1 in 9.9 million. In those states, voters are more likely to decide the election than to die by dog bite this year.For everyone else after those four states, fat chance.

The next lowest odds--for Nevada--are 1 in 28.2 million. Thirty-four states have odds greater than 1 in 100 million; 20 states have odds worse than 1 in 1 billion. Alabama’s odds are 1 in 12.2 billion. Oklahoma’s odds are 1 in 20.5 billion. But the nation’s capital has it the worst. The odds of a District of Columbia resident casting the vote that decides the election are 1 in 490 billion.

That’s essentially zero, but one of the study’s authors notes: “We never like to say zero in statistics.”

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