It may not seem like it, but one vote can make a difference.
There have only been 22 tied elections. Ever. In the world. One of them was a Victorian state seat in 1985. In Ballarat in 1919, Nationalist candidate Edwin Kerby defeated the sitting MP by just one vote. More recently, in 2013, mining magnate Clive Palmer was elected as the member for the Queensland electorate of Fairfax by just 53 votes.
Politicians can get elected by the smallest of margins, but holistically, one, twenty-two, or even fifty-three votes don’t really impact the result of an election. What is felt by pundits, pollies, and parties is whether or not the margins of an election change, and by how much. Margins are the percentage of votes for a certain candidate – if candidate A wins 57% of the vote in a seat then they hold the seat by a 7% margin. The movement of a margin is what sends a message to the political parties. If a margin is changed enough, who knows, maybe you can vote a sitting member out of a once very safe seat.
A Hypothetical Scenario:
There are two people who live in Sydney, John and Jane. John lives in the federal seat of Lindsay out in Penrith. Jane lives in the seat of Berowra in the north-west Hills District. It’s May 18 and John and Jane go out and vote. John votes for the Liberal candidate and Jane votes for the Labor candidate.
Lindsay, where John lives, is an extremely marginal Labor seat with a margin of 1.1% – meaning that in 2016 (the previous federal election) Labor won 51.1% of the vote. Berowra, on the other hand, is a safe Liberal seat with a margin of 16.5% (the Liberal party won 66.5% of the vote).
If in Lindsay, in this hypothetical scenario, 51.2% of voters vote Liberal on May 18 (like John did), then the seat would flip from Labor to Liberal (with a new margin of 1.2%). This would send a strong message to the Labor party that voters in Lindsay aren’t satisfied with their performance.
If in Berowra, 51.2% of voters vote Labor on May 18 (like Jane did), the seat would remain Liberal. This, however, would also send a strong message as the percentage of people who voted Liberal decreased by 15.7 (which is HUGE in electoral terms). This result would mean that Berowra, which is currently one of the safest Liberal seats in the country, would become a marginal seat.
Both of these hypothetical outcomes are caused by a total vote of 51.2%. Both send a strong message to the respective party. Both were movements, and movements have to start somewhere.
So, don’t ever think that your vote doesn’t matter.
Sol Foo is a journalism student at the University of Canberra and is one half of the Suppository of Wisdom, a weekly news and commentary podcast.