Running For Local Office? You Need This Number to Win

March 11, 2016 | NGP VAN
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Your win number is the number that runs your campaign. It’s your guiding star, your compass, your map to victory. Quite simply, your win number is the number of votes you need to get elected.

There’s plenty of ways to calculate this number depending on the resources you have at hand – but if you get caught up with pretty projections and clever calculations, by the time you’ve got a perfect model, it’ll be November 8 and you’ll be too late! (pardon the rhyming.)

If you’re running your campaign on a tight budget, then this guide is for you. This is a simple, sure-fire way to get a useful win number that you can use to plan your victory.

Calculate The Expected Vote

How many people will come out to vote, and how many ballots will they cast?

 The best way to get a solid, workable turnout prediction is to use the last three similar elections to help predict the next one.

The most reliable technique is to average out the actual ballots received for the relevant office in the last three similar elections. Remember, a similar election isn’t necessarily the last election – a general election will have higher turnout than a midterm, for example.  

Once you’ve calculated turnout, you might need to adjust it by a few percentage points to account for unique conditions – for example, is your turnout expected to be higher because of a hotly contested election further up (or down) the ballot?

The Math

Calculate Vote Goal

This is the number of votes you need to win. In a general election, this is a simple majority: 50% + 1%.

Of course, a margin of only 1% isn’t exactly safe – if turnout were to be change by a fraction, you might lose. Generally, a 3% margin is a good baseline, but you can increase this if you’re worried about unpredictable factors that might upend things on the day.

The Math

What if There’s More Than Two Candidates?

In a race with more than two candidates, things become much more complicated. In a race with three candidates, for example, simply getting more than a third of the vote might not be enough to win. If one candidate collects just 5% of the vote, you and the other candidate are left to fight over the remaining 95%. 

To calculate your win number with multiple candidates, it’s matter of determining how many viable candidates there are in the race at any given moment, and then using this to calculate your winning share of the vote. These numbers are constantly changing in real time, and are complicated to track and calculate without experience and guesswork.

In order to develop a sound strategy in a complex race, you’ll need more data, software to process it, and experienced assistance.


Now you’ve got your vote goal, you’ve built the basis of your campaign. All ads, lawn signs, door knocking and other tactics are simply in aid of getting you to that vote goal, and getting elected. 

Tip: If you want to get even deeper into the nitty-gritty, you can use this same math on a granular basis – for instance, calculating these numbers using precincts or other divisions so you know how many votes you need in each area. You can use this information to plan your door knocking and lawn sign strategies, and to keep you on track to achieving your vote goal block by block, street by street.

Ready for the next steps? Get the in-depth guide to calculating your winning number, and then head over to the Campaign Workshop’s post to figure out your vote deficit – the gap between where you stand and your win number. 

 Download the Political Campaign Strategy Basics: Get Your Win Number ebook for:

  • A free calculator workbook that does the math for you
  • How to find the numbers you need
  • A Walkthrough + Example calculation
Get Your Win Number ebook Download