Boston city council election decided by a single vote

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I hope they both voted for themselves!


Sometimes I still love this town.


I hope none of their friends or family forgot to vote. Might be a bit embarrassing: “If only you had voted, dad, I could have won”.


Provided they supported their campaigns. I have family members I love that I absolutely would not for vote in any government election and they know it (not that they would want to go into politics any more than I would, which is a hard no).


This brings back two set of memories - one from when Rick Winston, a friend of mine, ran for State Representative in a district here in Vermont and, after the recount, it was determined that the vote was tied. They drew cards to decide who would serve, and Rick lost.

The other was in 1981, when Bernie Sanders won his first election … by 10 votes (admittedly, it was a 4-way race).


My better half ran for and won a seat on the local Assembly this past year and all I can say after having worked the back-end of a campaign, good lord its an exhaustingly odd way to apply for a job. Glad that Mejia and St. Guillen were able to stay cordial through it all.


If there were a requirment that there be a statistically significant difference between first and second place before a new election is triggered… I wonder what that threshold would look like?


I am not a statistician, but I see two issues. First, at least in parametric statistics, you need multiple samples - an election is just one sample. You can’t understand what the potential magnitude of sampling error is with just one sample. I suppose you could look at previous elections to build an average or a threshold, but there are a lot of variables that differ between campaigns that are not accounted for in that. Also, different districts could end up with different thresholds - you need a 5% margin here, but 1% will do here.

Following from that, if there is some sort of threshold it is ripe for politically motivated manipulation. The governing party simply needs to look at election results and choose a threshold that hurts their opponent more that it hurts them. Especially if one party’s candidates tend to win by greater margins than another party. After all, the concept of statistical significance is still somewhat arbitrary.

To me, a win is a win. You get the most votes, you deserve it. The problem is that different laws and regulations do not give everyone an equal chance to cast their vote and in many cases prevent people from voting at all.

I could see elections being re-run if there is low turnout - where I grew up municipal elections regularly averaged between 10-20% turnout, that always struck me as unfair and made it vulnerable to grifters and people who wouldn’t work in the public interest. In my city, turnout has increased over time as people realize that municipal government actually plays a large role in their day-to-day lives.


It was my vote.

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“Son, if I had voted, the other guy would have won by two votes.”


There was a tie in the election of Student Body President in my high school, which I bother to mention because each candidate received 666 votes. They were declared co-presidents.

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Hello, long time lurker here, decided to comment 'cause I have been thinking a lot in the past about this specific issue.

Firstly I would like to mention that an election is not a sample - because it is applied on the entire population, not part of it. A survey is applied to a sample of a population.

The statistical error in a survey is a sum of two types of errors:

  1. the sample not being 100% representative of the entire population
  2. researcher error when cataloguing the results of the survey

The error in an election result is not the same:
the sample is the population so there is no error here
Vote counting errors are applicable which are the equivalent to #2 above.

In general, in a close call like that I would propose a forced coalition rule, which modern politics don’t like because it results in non-stable leadership.


You are right, I shouldn’t have said elections were a sample - in hindsight, even if you ran those elections over and over, the “samples” wouldn’t be independent.

The bigger issue is still who gets to vote. If everyone’s access to the ballot box were the same, then it is easy to accept the result of a close election. Of course we know that is not true. Then the problem becomes how do you define a close election then. It doesn’t get closer than one vote, but elections are frequently decided by less than one percent margins. I can see this idea being abused.

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