The importance of Ohio to this presidential race has been repeated again and again as Election Day approached, but as voters go to the polls, how important is just one vote in the state? Well, according to Columbia University statistician Andrew Gelman (as reported in the Associated Press) voters in Ohio have about a one in a million chance of deciding the outcome of the race. That's about the same probability as tossing a coin 20 times and having it always come up on the same side. In purely red and blue states the chance is more like zero. Gelman told us in an email that those figures are guesses based on calculations he did for a study of the 2008 presidential election along with Nate Silver wherein he found that a single voter had a one in 60 million chance of deciding the race.
That's not to say people shouldn't vote, Gelman told us in an email. "Voting is a habitual act, so as a New Yorker I vote in a presidential election, even though my vote won't matter, because voting is something I do," he wrote. "Yet another reason to vote, as it's been pointed out, is that there is a legitimacy attached to being the popular vote winner, and even a non-swing-state voter can cast a vote that can affect this perception."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.