In campaigning, there’s one number that matters, and that’s how many votes you get on election day. It doesn’t matter how many yard signs you plant, how many parades you walk in, or even how much money you raise. Of course, those things can help, but in the end, the only metric of success that truly matters is how many people vote for you. So, when you’re planning your campaign it’s crucial to figure out just how many votes you think you’ll need to win.

Don’t I just need more than the other guy?

Obviously, but there’s more to it than that. Just like running a marathon, you need to know where the finish line is. But you also need to know how long it takes you to run a marathon. That will help you to know if you’re keeping pace with your expected finish time and beating the competition.

Calculating your campaign’s Vote Goal will give you an idea of what needs to be done to win and how you can best accomplish that goal. This isn’t a pie on the sky number; it’s a concrete metric based on your district and historical election results. Your Vote Goal will help you decide on Get-Out-The-Vote strategies and give you the edge you need in the final stretch.

Calculating your Vote Goal: I was told there would be no math

Having flashbacks to high school math class? Don’t worry about it! This is an easy, two step process. First, we need to figure out the Projected Turnout for your election.

% Turnout of Last 3 Elections in your District X Current Registered Voters = Projected Turnout

Your projected turnout gives you an idea of the field. If you’re focused on the primary election, make sure to use turnout from primaries. General elections will likely have higher turnout than a primary. Similarly, presidential election years see higher turnout than midterms. Consider this as you select similar elections. Also consider if your district has changed over the course of elections. Different borders will change your expected turnout. Once you have your Projected Turnout, it’s time for step two, finding your Vote Goal!

Projected Turnout X Percent to Win = Vote Goal

This isn’t a cop out, I promise, but every race is a bit different. If you’re running head to head as a major party candidate without a strong third party challenger, your number is probably going to be 52%. So if you expect 14,346 people to turn out to vote, that’s 7,460 votes you would need to win. However, that number would likely be lower if you’re in a crowded primary field with a number of candidates. If possible, look back on previous similar elections to find a percent to win that’s more similar to your race, then bump that number up 2%.

Let’s take the example of the Chesapeake Public School Board election. In that race, 11 candidates ran for 5 positions, which were awarded to the top 5 vote getters. Winners in that race won with just 10.39% of the total vote! Building a campaign to win 52% of the vote would not only have been impossible, but also a waste of time and resources. That’s why it’s very important to tailor your Vote Goal to your specific district and election.

Reaching your Vote Goal

First, do a sanity check on your number. Does it resemble the results of previous elections in your district? Now it’s time to build up your campaign to reach that number. Use your state’s election history to find out where to focus your efforts. Which areas of your district have turned out the most voters for candidates like you? Find the places that are likely to be hotbeds of support for your campaign by looking at those records.

Once you know where your votes are likely to come from, plan your GOTV door-knocking campaigns to focus on those areas. As you meet voters and convince them to support your campaign, you’ll start to realize how many people you need to talk to over the course of your campaign.

Want more?

Ready to take the next steps? Our Candidate Certification Course is right for you. This course will help you jumpstart your campaign as you learn what it takes to win elections! Take the course today and get to work.