As you probably know, I enrolled for the Leadership Institute’s “Campaign Leadership College” a couple weeks ago. Nine days of intense instruction PLUS homework every night.
One of our assignments was to calculate the “Vote Goal” for various state Senate races that were on the ballot in Virginia yesterday. The team I was on – great guys all – was assigned Senate District 17.
Our candidate was the Republican in the race, Emily Brewer. And for the purpose of calculating the vote goal, this race was a mess.
Thanks to redistricting, SD17 combined two existing districts into one. Some precincts were added. Others removed. Worse, some PRECINCTS were split up!
And since Virginia’s legislative elections take place in odd-numbered years – unlike most of the rest of the country – analyzing historical voting history was a real challenge.
This wasn’t a presidential year or a non-presidential year. It was a non-non-presidential year without a governor’s race on the ballot. So estimating projected turnout was extremely difficult.
That said, I can’t stress enough just how important coming up with a specific and realistic vote goal number is and how reliable the vote goal formula to get to that number is. So here are the key elements that went into our team’s calculations…
The number of registered voters in the district in 2021 – when the race for governor was also on the ballot – was 157,251. The number of registered voters in the district going into the 2023 elections had dropped to 152,434.
Our vote goal was to get 52% of the expected voter turnout this year. Voter turnout in 2021 was 56% – and that’s the number we used for our projected turnout yesterday.
Without the governor’s race being on the ballot, we probably should have dropped our estimated turnout figure a couple points lower. Fewer people vote in elections without a top race on the ballot.
But we figured it was better to overestimate turnout than underestimate.
Actual turnout was 49%. And had we used that figure in calculating our vote goal, the estimated number of votes needed to win would have been 38,841. Brewer ended up getting 39,294 votes and won, 53-47%.
So aside from overestimating turnout, our projection was right on the money
Knowing this vote goal number is CRITICAL for your campaign plan and strategy.
And knowing the vote goal formula – which can be used to come up with vote goals for each individual precinct, as well – is rock solid.
If you’re not familiar with the formula, I wrote a Special Report explaining exactly what it is and how to use it – and I’ll guarantee it’ll be a lot easier for your race than it was for that SD17 race in Virginia that we were tasked with.
You can get this Special Report – along with a number of additional Special Reports – with a trial subscription to my monthly Psephology Today print newsletter. It’ll only cost you a buck.
Just click on the link below for details.