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6 Times a Single Vote Really Did Change an Election

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But even though one vote has only a tiny chance of being the pivotal one in an election, that doesn't mean that voting isn't important. Collectively, votes matter a great deal. Certain groups in the population that have higher turnout rates — such as older voters, the wealthy, and white Americans — benefit from the clout that they achieve as a result, says Sean McElwee, an analyst for Demos, a public policy organization that works to reduce political and economic inequality in the U.S.

"When gaps in turnout are smaller, policy is more equitable," McElwee says. "Even in deeply blue or red district, vote shares send important signals to representatives about their constituents. In local elections, where turnout rates are often single-digit, vote margins are far narrower and turnout is even more skewed against people of color, young people and low-income folks."