When Every Vote Counts: 103 Races Decided by Less Than 100 Votes

Now that nearly all results from the 2022 midterms are certified, it’s time to put overall trends under the spotlight. Here lie some of the deepest contradictions in American society, as well as the trends and forces shaping it.

One of the most surprising takes? According to the bipartisan portal Ballotpedia, 103 legislative races around the country were decided by under 100 votes. Is this further proof of the country’s polarization? Or an unexpected reminder of the power every single voter holds?

Which Races Hinged on Extra-Narrow Margins?

Ballotpedia’s latest report examined the results from 6,278 legislative races across the country, all belonging to the 2022 midterm election. Out of them, they found 103 that were decided by 100 voters or less.

However, these narrow results were not distributed evenly. State governorships and national Senate seats, which often attract the widest media attention, rarely suffered from these tight margins. Instead, narrow results were more likely in races that involved:

  • State legislative chambers – where 98 seats were decided by narrow margins
  • Rural districts with small population sizes (under 25,000 people) –accounting for 68 of these races
  • Midwestern and Northern States

The most popular State on this list was, by far, New Hampshire: here 36 seats from its House of Representatives were deemed as “extremely tight.” Their House is currently under Republican Control by a similarly thin margin: 201 state representatives align with the GOP, while 197 are either Democrats or Independents.

However, the next few spots on the list were a fair mix of red and blue: Vermont and Maine, both under Democrat control, saw five races on the list each. Meanwhile, Montana and Iowa’s Houses also had 4 “narrow” races, although they are under stout Republican control.

What Does This Mean for 2024?

At first glance, narrow results serve as a reminder of a wider national disinterest: when people don’t bother to show up on election day, it is easier for a tiny majority to take the local seat.

But in light of next year’s presidential election, political analysts should take home two additional lessons:

Swing states are ever frail

Topping the rankings for tight races are naturally the same “swing states” that often decide an election nationwide. New Hampshire may be the most dramatic example. Yet, even solidly blue states like Maine may actually be much closer to a patchwork than a uniform wave.

But if all it takes is 100 people to drive the entire state in the opposite direction, then it’s time for strategists to buckle down and redouble their efforts in the same small, rural, or highly-polarized communities.

GOTV Campaigns Matter

Over the past couple of decades, “Get Out The Vote” (GOTV) campaigns have developed into a niche of their own. When voters are confronted with inconvenient ballot locations, long drives, or just a generalized feeling that “it doesn’t matter”, the political map can change quickly.

In this sense, voter mobilization campaigns may be playing an essential role in keeping our democratic traditions alive.

Final Thoughts

Overall, these 103 races represent barely 1.64% of all state legislative races in a midterm year. And yet, they were decided by the number of people we could find inside a Walmart any weekend. It is time for the political establishment to acknowledge the movements and currents that shape much of small-town America. Long used to fall under the radar, people in these communities may be worth their weight in gold – at least during elections.

Grassroots Pulse covers public policy and political issues aimed at engaging highly-active policy makers, donors, and grassroots leaders at the forefront of the political process in America today.

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