Marge: You really should have voted, Homer.
Homer: Oh, it wouldn't have made a difference.
When an election is the main plot of the story, it is inevitably decided by one vote. This can manifest itself in several different ways:
1. The antagonist candidate is declared to have won by one vote. The main characters of the show realize that, in the excitement of the plot, they themselves forgot to vote. Usually, the episode began with the characters trying to convince someone that voting is important. Thus An Aesop is delivered.
2. The vote is discovered to be tied, or very close, but there's still a small amount of time left to vote. A race against the clock ensues.
3. The vote is discovered to be a tie, one person has yet to vote, and they vote unexpectedly.
4. One person's vote is counted multiple times. This version is most common in business settings in which one person holds the "controlling share" (over 50%) of the company's stock.
Note that any one of these can also have an additional scenario attached to the final vote - one character, either out of ignorance or some moral principle, refuses to vote for themselves and votes for their opponent instead. This one vote will ironically be their undoing as they discover that their opponent did not share this mentality. This may also happen due to a character believing a vote for themselves is unfair or even not realizing they can actually vote for themselves. It may also include an epiphany where one of the candidates realizes at the last moment that they don't deserve to win and votes for their opponent instead, thus ensuring their own defeat for the greater good.
See also: Down to the Last Play. Subversions of this trope usually involve a Dark Horse Victory or Crack Defeat. The polar opposite of this is a Landslide Election, in which one side completely crushes the other.
This occasionally happens in real life (but not nearly as often as oft-repeated chain letters would have you believe).
- Happened during Myra Fermin's race for Mayor of Hub City in Denny O'Neil's run on The Question. While dismantling the opposing candidate's plan to hire thugs to attack Fermin's supporters, Vic doesn't find the time to vote himself. However, her opponent is killed before he could be sworn in, so Fermin got the position anyway.
- A Josie and the Pussycats story showed Dumb Blonde Melody and Alpha Bitch Alexandra running against each other for class president, but neither one was capable of getting more than exactly half of the school to support them. Alexandra, at the last moment, realized she could swing thing in her favor by telling Melody there was a rule against a candidate voting for themselves. Therefore, while technically Alexandra wins by two votes, Melody's single vote for her opponent prevents the candidates own votes from cancelling each other out.
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The council decides to put the "Permission To Tell Spouses About Magic Powers Act" to a public vote. For various reasons, Sabrina and Hilda are unable to vote to get their votes in (Sabrina's a minor, Hilda... is Hilda). And of course...
Hilda: "Eh, who cares. It's not like two votes are going to matter."TV Announcer: "And in a stunning landslide, the Not Tell voters won by a single vote!"Hilda: "Okay, one vote wasn't going to matter."
- A 2015 Crankshaft storyline in which Crankshaft's friend Ralph ran for mayor ended with Crankshaft admitting he didn't vote, as the TV announced that it was a tie. The decision went to a coin toss, and Crankshaft called it on Ralph's behalf ... and lost the election for him again.
- Futurama episode "A Head In The Polls." Leela tries to convince Fry of the importance of voting. Richard Nixon's head in a jar decides to run for president, and acquires Bender's body, which Bender sold to a pawn shop when the price of titanium skyrocketed. (Nixon does this to get around the rule stating nobody can be elected president more than twice. He emphasizes the body part of the word "nobody", and convinces everyone that since he has a different body now, he should be allowed to run.) After spending the whole episode trying to get Bender's body back from Nixon, the main characters forget to vote. Nixon wins the election by one vote. From the same episode it is said the first robot president won by one vote as well, and pledged not to go on a killing spree. As he was a politician you can imagine what that promise was worth. Given Futurama verse has elected Nixon, a 20ft alien who used human skulls as cushions and the above killer robot as presidents, some reform of the candidate selection process may be needed.
- Bender: It's not my fault, I'm a non-voting felon!Fry: And it's not my fault, because I forgot to vote!Leela: Oh, crud! I knew there was something I forgot to do today!
- The Simpsons
- In the early episode "Lisa's Substitute", Bart runs against Martin Prince for class president. After spending the whole episode campaigning, Bart overconfidently announces his own victory party will be held during the voting period. With all his friends and classmates at the party, Bart loses the election 2-0, as Martin and his friend were the only ones who voted.
- A later example occurs in "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken" with a "6 PM under 70 curfew" winning "by a single vote!" Marge says, "Homer, you really should've voted!" Homer moans, "Oh, it wouldn't have made a difference!"
- The Fairly OddParents! episode "Hail to the Chief" subverts this trope by having the protagonist Timmy Turner winning by one vote. Tired of seeing co-Presidents Tad and Chad abusing presidential power, Timmy decided to run for student council president. At the debate, Tad and Chad offered a party with a giant cake and Timmy was sure he'd be the only person to vote for him since even his best friends accepted the bribe. To his surprise, Timmy not only ends up being the only student to vote for himself (as he expected), but the only student to even be at school to vote at all because all the other students became sick from eating too much of the cake and therefore couldn't attend classes on the day they were supposed to vote.
- Bobby's World had an episode where both Bobby and Uncle Ted ran for different offices. While the main plot resolves with Bobby losing by a landslide, the episode ends with Uncle Ted losing by one vote because he decided not to vote for himself.
- The Secret Show episode "The Villain Nobody Took Seriously", Victor Volt wasn't concerned about voting at the upcoming World Leader elections because the title's current holder was running unopposed. A clown won the election by renaming himself after the ballot's instruction of where to put the "X" and getting votes from confused voters. The more Changed Daily, who was one of the confused voters, hates it, he recognizes the clown won the election fair and square.
- Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures: In "Peace Without Slime", President Spheros loses the election to Obtuse by one vote. It turns out Spheros forgot to vote.
- Beetlejuice runs for Mayor of the Neitherworld in "Mr. Beetlejuice Goes To Town" against incumbent Mayor Maynot. The result is a tie, but only because Beetlejuice himself had not voted yet. He casts the tie breaker (smashing a necktie with a mallet) and wins.
- In the Liar Game, while playing the "Minority Game", where the voters who voted in the minority win, every round ended in the closest possible margin (i.e. 12-10, 6-4, 3-1). Of course, this being the Liar Game, It's not a coincidence and in fact tips off Akiyama that there exist more teams besides their own.
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX manga, Asuka and Seika are tied in votes for "Miss Duel Academy," a contest Asuka has no interest in entering, all because Judai didn't vote. After a great deal of negotiation, it's ultimately decided that Asuka will duel Judai, dropping out of the contest if she wins, and giving the vote to Seika if she loses. She loses, but Seika concedes, noting with chagrin that everyone is backing Asuka.
- Cerebus the Aardvark issue 44, "The Deciding Vote".
- Chris Rock movie Head of State. When the media announces that a black man is on the verge of winning the presidency, the empty streets of California fill with white people madly racing to the polls. However Rock's character takes the time during election day to fulfill an old promise to use his campaign bus to transport poor people during a transit strike. That unusual move creates so much timely good publicity that he wins the election.
- Subverted on I Love Lucy, when Lucy and Ethel run against each other for president of their women's club. They discover that half the club intends to vote for Lucy and the other half is going to vote for Ethel, and the deciding vote is Ruth Knickerbocker, a new member of the club. Both immediately begin wining and dining her in order to win her vote. In the end, she ends up getting sick from all the food they feed her and can't vote, so Lucy and Ethel are declared co-presidents.
- An out-of-universe example occurred with Project JPDE in March 2019. The public was voting on which character would receive the next route event, and the poll was designed to last 24 hours. Two wildly popular characters were up for nomination: Nora Valkyrie, whose devoted fanbase constantly nominated her every month for two years without success, and Titania, who'd been introduced as a joke vote but had a massive amount of fans due to her looks and her appearances in story events. The poll remained neck and neck the entire time, neither side achieving a lead of more than four votes at any point. As time ticked closer to the deadline, supporters of both girls took to social media to convince others to vote for their waifu, resulting in almost 40 votes being cast in the last three hours. The poll literally came down to the wire, and Nora won with a last-second vote putting her ahead 134-133.
- The Sluggy Freelance spinoff Meanwhile in the Dimension of Pain. Reakk and Terribus are running against each other for the title of Demon Lord, but the evilly-designed ballots turn out to be butterflies whose wings must be torn off as part of the vote. The butterflies all flee into the one sacred area where demons cannot enter. As time to vote runs out, Reakk reaches into the sacred circle, grabbing a butterfly in exchange for severe burns, only to accidentally tear off the wrong wing and give Terribus the victory.
- This is how most elections in Cornerstone ended in the first few weeks, with various members of the Yogscast urging whoever was left to vote for them as the time started running out (read:everyone else had voted to a stalemate).
- One episode of The Mask featured the Mask running against Mayor Tilton. Stanley only kept Mask in the race because Pretorius, who was posing as Tilton, planned to allow toxic waste to be dumped in Edge City. (It's never been revealed why Pretorius bothered with a re-election campaign rather than simply using Tilton's current authority) After all votes were counted, the Mask was ahead by one vote and Pretorius decided to dump the toxic waste anyway but Mask stopped him. The real Mayor Tilton has been rescued and, when a reporter tried to interview him about losing, he pointed out he didn't vote and there's still time. Mayor Tilton then voted for himself, bringing the election to a tie. Stanley then showed up and pointed out that he was so busy being the Mask... 's campaign manager he still hasn't voted. When Mayor Tilton asks Stanley to vote for him, Stanley asked in return that Mayor Tilton remove the extra parking meters, reduce the fee to renew dog licenses and end the garbagemen's strike. Tilton accepted.
- In The Littles episode "Every Little Vote Counts", the littles were having a mayoral election and it seemed they'd have a new mayor who'd win by a landslide. However, several people who initially didn't feel like voting were eventually persuaded to understand the true value of a vote and, instead of getting a new mayor, the littles re-elected the "previous" one.
- An episode for ¡Mucha Lucha! has Rikochet opt out of voting for the class president, as the two lead candidates are his best friends and he doesn't want to choose one over the other. Thus the voting result is a tie, so the school holds a lucha match to decide the winner. That winner is... the underdog candidate Snowpea.
- In The Spirit, two mayoral candidates (both coerced into running) tie... and the 'tiebreaker' votes for himself, leaving the tie unresolved. The tied candidates seize the chance to transfer their votes to the last voter, leading to his becoming elected unanimously.
- A rather (in-universe) infuriating version happens in Lupo Alberto when they hold elections for the farms' leader. Moses (the incumbent leader) gets only his own vote due his tyrannical (if completely necessary, given how lazy the farm's inhabitants are) ways, Alberto (who's running just to piss off Moses and plans to continue Moses' policies, only dressing them up better and using charisma and not terror to have the farmers follow his instructions, as he knows who he's dealing with) gets 49 votes, Enrico (who's running because he wants the power) gets 49, looks like they'll have to vote again between the tied candidates with Moses as the tiebreaker... Then the neutral ballot judge notices that Glicerina, the farm's fool, has voted for all of them and signed his ballot, and when they have him decide for only one he votes for Enrico because he accepts to change his planned river of milk and honey in one of milk and chocolate (yes, Glicerina's the stupidest character in the series, but not the only idiot), prompting Alberto and Moses to join forces to try and stop him from running the farm into the ground as soon as they calm down enough for the ballot judge to tell them they can do just that.
- In Prez, this is how Beth Ross becomes President. The electoral college vote results in a tie between the two major party candidates (with Beth, the outsider candidate, winning a single state), so the election goes to a vote in Congress. As the result of the vote isn't final until one candidate gets a majority, one of the state delegations hits on the idea of casting its vote for Beth and seeing which of the major parties will offer a better deal to get them to change it. This tactic is rapidly adopted by other delegations, pushing up Beth's vote and briefly horrifying the political fixers with the prospect of a complete political unknown being elected accidentally, before the rise halts with Beth one vote short of the necessary majority. And then Delaware, having decided that neither of the major party candidates is particularly desirable, chooses to take a chance on the unknown and deliberately casts one more vote for Beth, ending the election with her as winner.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, it is said that there has been no Pirate King for ages, because at any attempt to elect one, everyone votes for themselves. This is apparently going to be the case this time as well, until Jack Sparrow unexpectedly votes for Elizabeth because, for the moment, their interests coincide. It's actually his Batman Gambit because he knew they'd do this. As soon as he does this, all the other Pirate Lords start screaming that he should vote for him/her instead.
- Election centers around a class presidency election between ruthless overachiever Tracy Flick and kind but not-too-bright jock Paul. Tracy wins the election by one vote because Paul decides that it wouldn't be fair for him to vote for himself and votes for Tracy instead.
- Kevin Costner movie Swing Vote. The presidential election is tied to the point of depending on the state of New Mexico's electoral votes. The state, however, is tied to the point of depending on a single precinct, which is waiting for one vote: that of Costner's character. He is lobbied — individually — by both candidates. (His phone has been cut off, so the candidates even make TV commercials directed at him.) Eventually, he moderates a debate between the two, asking questions sent in by voters nationwide, and ultimately makes a decision, however the decision is not revealed.
- In Advise & Consent, the Leffingwell nomination comes down to an even split in the Senate, leaving Vice President Harley Hudson to cast his deciding vote as president of the Senate. He chooses, however, not to cast his vote because he'd just been informed the President had died and he had succeeded to the Oval Office. He instead informs the Senate Majority Leader he will nominate his own Secretary of State, so the vote fails. This is a change from the original novel, which saw the Leffingwell nomination go down in flames.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy ends with protagonist Thorby battling the Evil Chancellor for control of his late parents' Mega-Corp in a shareholders' election. Evil Chancellor's Beautiful Stepdaughter Leda reveals she has enough stock to swing the election in Thorby's favor.
- In the It's About Time episode "Mark Your Ballots", Mac and Hector convince the cave-people to have an election, running Boss against Gronk. The election results in a tie, but at the last minute an old woman named Trong, who lives near the tar-pits, arrives to vote for Boss.
- In the Gilligan's Island episode "President Gilligan", the castaways determine they need an election to decide who'll be leader. The election pits the Skipper against Mr. Howell. Mr. Howell votes for himself, and Ginger votes for himself as well. The Professor and the Skipper vote for the Skipper. In a surprise twist, Gilligan wins on a "write-in" ballot. Mrs. Howell, Mary Ann and Gilligan himself vote for Gilligan as President.
- In Sesame Street episode "Telly the Tie-Breaker", which not coincidentally first aired on the day of the 2012 U.S. presidential election, Elmo and friends vote on whether to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" or "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". The vote is tied, which leaves Telly to cast the decisive vote. He doesn't like the pressure.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003)
- Included in the episode "Colonial Day", when the Vice Presidential race between Gaius Baltar and Tom Zarek is a race against the clock. One more vote and Zarek (an admitted terrorist with a lot of public support) gets it. A vote for Baltar (who is really Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds, but no one but him knows it) and it's a tie. The President (who's got a hate-on for Zarek) gets to make the call. Baltar gets the vote, Laura Roslin backs "the devil she knows", and everything starts to go to hell in a handbasket.
- Played straight later in the series when the Cylons, who always vote by model number, end up confused when a single iteration of a model 8 Cylon votes against her model number.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: The class presidential elections wind up locked in a four way tie between two popular kids, Ned and a stray weasel (who is always nominated as a joke, but always garners 25% of the vote). The last vote goes to Coconut Head, who votes for... the weasel, because it was the only candidate who didn't unintentionally cause him physical harm trying to get his vote. A Dark Horse Victory, but subverted because the vice president (the only one who ran for that position) decides to enact the ideas in Ned's platform on behalf of President Weasel.
- In the first episode of BBC's Middlemarch (and the 1871 novel on which it is based), the newcomer who had no interest in voting (as he knew neither of the candidates) was forced to vote when it comes down to a tie.
- In Bosom Buddies, an important business decision comes between Ruth (who has a 49% interest), Kip and Henry (who also total 49%) and Amy, whose 2% makes her the deciding vote. The others shower her with gifts and favors for a while, until she subverts the trope by telling them that, as "the big Kahunas", they really need to come to a mutual decision.
Amy: And by the way: the bribes are non-refundable.
- In Game of Thrones, the election for the Night's Watch Lord Commander is tied between Sir Alliser Thorne and Jon Snow until Maester Aemon gives his decisive vote to the latter.
- The Red vs. Blue Election Night video had the Red and Blue teams voting to see which one was the best and, as usual, each team was voting for themselves until they finally find s set-up with an odd number of members, only for one person to not vote. It turns out to be the Blood Gulch crew and Grif was the one who didn't vote, having forgotten to register beforehand, leaving the issue unresolved until the next election.
- A retroactive variant in Luann. Luann is torn between voting for her crush Aaron Hill or for her friend Delta (and obviously not for her rival Tiffany). She ends up voting for her friend, but Tiffany wins with Aaron one vote below a tie. When he gets upset at Luann for his loss, she considers lying and claiming she voted for him, but ultimately thinks better of it.
- The plot of the musical 1776 hinges on obtaining unanimous ratification for the Declaration of Independence by all 13 colonies (less New York, which abstains courteously in the absence of instructions from their legislature). Two of the delegations are split and require extraordinary means to break ties (though historically all the delegations were larger than depicted). First, Delaware's split is broken by a dramatic night ride back to Philadelphia by Caesar Rodney; Pennsylvania is swung when pro-independence Benjamin Franklin asks to poll individual delegates, at which point James Wilson changes sides. In the musical, he claims to desire relative anonymity rather than be remembered as the man who prevented American Independence; historically, Wilson did break the tie, but at the time of writing, nobody knew why (as the creators admit). More recent research shows that he only withheld his "yes" vote because he was making sure his constituents were in favor of it.
- The result of the vote for the mayor of Loire in Terranigma is left up to the protagonist's vote: by voting for the drunkard and conservative Louis, the town won't progress any further, but by voting for the well-dressed and intelligent Jean, he'll ask Louis to be his assistant, allowing the town to develop and prosper further.
- One potential event in The Yawhg sees one of your protagonists getting approached by a group trying to decide between two leaders. Since they're completely deadlocked, they ask your hero to act as a tiebreaker. Whichever candidate you vote for rewards you afterwards as thanks.
- In Secret of the Stars, the mayoral race in Decatas comes down to one vote, and the winning candidate gives you a circus ticket you need to advance the plot, as thanks for voting for him.
- In the Peanuts TV special "You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown" the election was between Linus and another kid. The election was tied, the other kid was last to vote, but he voted for Linus because he thought Linus would make a better president.
- An episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius features a variation on this, bordering on subversion. The election for class president is a tie, with the last vote belonging to the cowardly and indecisive Carl—however, rather than voting unexpectedly, he panics and breaks down, revealing that all three of the leading candidates (Sheen, Libby, and Jimmy) were each trying to pressure him into voting for them through acts of bribery, blackmail, and operating a zeppelin on school property without a permit. As a result, they all get disqualified, and Bolbi, an eccentric foreign boy who just started attending the school, ends up winning by default. Also a Dark Horse Victory.
- South Park:
- An episode that aired in November 2000 features an election for kindergarten class president that results in a tie because a little girl named Flora hadn't voted yet.
- Subverted in the episode "Douche & Turd" where every other character makes an enormous deal out of Stan's refusal to vote for a new school mascot (he didn't like either choice). When he finally caves and casts his all-important ballot, it turns out that not only was the victory a landslide but the school gets to keep their old mascot anyway, making his vote doubly pointless.
- In the Futurama episode "Future Stock", the stockholders were holding a meeting to decide on their CEO. Hermes, Bender, Leela, Amy and Farnsworth himself vote for Farnsworth. Fry and Scruffy (who owns 4x the stock of the others' individual amounts) vote against him, causing a tie, but the tie is broken by an obscure character with one share. Oh, and Zoidberg owned half the stock but wasn't present for the vote.
- The Simpsons episode, "A Star is Burns" has a tie for the film festival award between Barney Gumbel and Montgomery Burns' films. Homer, with the tie-breaking vote, chooses Hans Moleman's, "Man getting hit by football" (in the groin). A remake of which went on to win the Oscar, thank you very much. (He does eventually change his vote.)
- In the Donkey Kong Country episode "Vote of Kong-fidence", Krusha is the only one who doesn't get to vote at first. He ends up casting the deciding vote for Donkey Kong because DK kept a campaign promise he made earlier (not to hit him the next time he stole the Crystal Coconut). Needless to say, K. Rool is furious with him.
- On Recess, Gretchen and Vince run against each other for class president. The girls support Gretchen and the boys support Vince. There are two more boys than girls in the class, but Mikey and Gus refuse to take sides... but the election is in Gretchen's favor because Vince decides to vote for her. (Oddly, Gretchen is said to have won by one vote, but that implies that one girl didn't vote; if everyone else voted down the gender lines, Gretchen would actually have won by two. The effect is the same either way, though.)
- In the Strawberry Shortcake Berryfest Princess Movie, the Berryfest Princess is decided by an election between Strawberry Shortcake and Orange Blossom. When the votes are tallied, the result is a tie, which Mr. Longface Caterpillar, presiding over the events, declares impossible. Orange Blossom realizes that in all the excitement she forgot to vote, and goes to do so. She votes for Strawberry, much to Ms. Shortcake's surprise (implying, perhaps, that Strawberry voted for herself).
- A 1983 Alvin and the Chipmunks episode had a situation where Alvin and Brittany are running against each other for class president. The tie-breaking vote belongs to Brittany's sister Jeanette, leading to mass lobbying from both candidates. Jeanette votes for Alvin. Brittany doesn't take that well.
- This was actually done in an early Popeye cartoon. Popeye and Bluto are running for president and the two are tied. The only person who hasn't voted? Olive Oyl. The episode devolves into the usual brawlfest for Olive's attention and, as usual Popeye wins in the end.
- The Flintstones has Fred currently tied with his opponent, Joe Rockhead, for Water Buffalo man of the year award. Only Barney hasn't voted yet. When the results are drawn, it's Rockhead who won by one vote. He was double-crossed by Barney when he told him while driving to the club, "may the best man win". Fred became sworn enemies with the Rubbles.
- The Gummi's from Adventures of the Gummi Bears once discovered a bird was eating their gummiberries and cooked up a plan to stop it. Two voted for a scarecrow, two others voted for a fence, Cubbi wasn't allowed to vote for being too young, and Tummi couldn't decide. While the others try to sway Tummi's vote, Cubbi looks into the situation and comes up with another plan. When it comes time to vote, Tummi goes with Cubbi's plan and the others acquiesce.
- The Loud House: Episode "In Tents Debat", when the Loud siblings are voting where to spend their next family vacation, the two possible choices each get 5 votes from the girls, leaving it up to Lincoln to determine which one its going to be. After spending the episode enjoying/enduring his sisters trying to bribe or scare him into voting for their favorite location, he takes a third option and votes for the familys usual camping place instead.
- In Mr. Deeds, the decision to dissolve Blake Media is made by one shareholder with 51% of the stock despite the opposition of the other 49%. This is only averted when it's realized that the shareholder does not rightfully own his stock as the man he purchased it from was not the late owner's true heir.
- Averted in Iron Man. Tony Stark thinks he can unilaterally shut down his company's weapons division because he owns the controlling share of his company. However, it's pointed out that the board still has rights and manages to file an injunction against him.
- In Making Money, Mrs Lavish has become chairperson and manager of the bank thanks to "a bit of ancient magic called 'being left fifty percent of the shares'." (Her dog owns one share, so for practical purposes she has 51%. In her will, she leaves all her shares to the dog, and the dog to Moist von Lipwig.)
- In Westworld, the chair of the board of Delos (owner of the titular park) had to seek out the Man in Black AKA William in the park in order to make sure he wouldn't oppose their plan to oust the park's director, Dr. Robert Ford. As the majority shareholder, the Man in Black could have single-handedly vetoed their plan by voting against it. His abstention ensured that the vote succeeded and Ford was ousted. Of course, Ford had a plan in case that happened...
- This article from Cracked lists several movies in which this trope takes place.
Anime and Manga
- In Bakuman。, the decision on whether to serialize the main characters' "Perfect Crime Party" comes down to this, with two added conditions- 1)A "Yes" vote also requires that the voter think the series can compete with Eiji Nizuma's "Crow", and 2)If the main characters don't make it, they can't work for Jump again. The vote is initially 4-3 against serialized, with the editor in chief casting the final "No" vote, but three of the "no" voters change their votes to "Yes", one of whom does it because he doesn't think it makes sense to end their career by such a slim margin.
- Mortadelo y Filemón: At the end of the story ¡Elecciones!, parodying the general election held in Spain in December 2015, it's revealed that there were so many parties in the running that each of them got one single vote... except for one candidate who managed to gather two votes and is subsequently named president.
- In the JLA storyline "Tower of Babel", the team decides to vote on if they should expel Batman from the team due to his contingency plans being used by the storyline's Big Bad Ra's al Ghul. It's tied 3-3 (Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Plastic Man for and The Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter against} with Superman as the tie-breaker. Superman doesn't get to vote — Batman knew Superman would vote for him to stay, so he decided to take things into his own hands and leaves the team.
- Welcome to Mooseport deals with two mayoral candidates who each eventually declare that they're going to vote for the other fellow as the one better qualified to run the town. One candidate, an experienced politician, secretly votes for himself anyways and wins by one vote, but feels so guilty he admits his subterfuge and tries to step down in favor of the other candidate. The other, a plumber who only sort of wants the position, falsely claims that he voted for himself too, and refuses the offer.
- In Election, Tracy wins the election for Student Council President by a single vote. Mr. McAllister, having never liked Tracy (he convinced Paul to run against her just to spite her), rigs the election by throwing away two votes for her while counting the ballots, thus allowing Paul to win by one vote.
- Just barely averted in Lincoln. The 13th amendment passes by two votes, but one of those votes is by the Speaker of the House, who surprised everyone by asking to vote for it (the Speaker is a ceremonial role and not required to vote; but, as he points out, nothing says he can't vote.)
- While the election is fixed in The Film of the Book, in the novel Carrie, this is actually how Carrie won prom queen. The first time the ballots went around, Tommy insisted on voting for themselves. The result was a tie between Frank and Jessica, and Tommy and Carrie. A second set of ballots was passed around, and suddenly experiencing a case of women's intuition, Carrie begs Tommy not to vote for themselves. He does anyway. Guess how many votes they won by.
- Subverted in The Berenstain Bears and the Female Fullback; The B-plot is Brother Bear running against Queenie McBear for school president. Queenie is quick to include the upheaval from Bertha Broom trying out for the boys football team in her campaign, turning the election into a boys vs girls affair, but there are an equal amount of boys and girls in the student body. Queenie is confident she'll win and at the end it's revealed why; Too-Tall Grizzly has a crush on her, and she was counting on his vote! However, the votes are still tied because Bertha, who doesn't care about women's lib, voted for Brother. In the end, Brother concedes to Queenie because he has too many responsibilities anyway.
- "Franchise", a Short Story by Isaac Asimov, has developed the science of voter prediction to where Multivac is able to select one single individual that is representative of the entire country. He doesn't get to 'vote' so much as hes subjected to a lengthy questioning on assorted electoral and other issues (one voter was, among other things, grilled at length about his feeling on the current price of eggs), which together with existing data on demographics and political opinion is used to calculate what everyone would have voted.
- In Monty Python's Flying Circus, the Sensible party wins Harpenden by one vote, the Silly vote being split because of two votes going to the Very Silly party instead.
- An odd variant from headLand: The residents of the Headland Hotel vote on whether Ben Wilde, a recently released murderer, should be allowed to keep his room, after Ben had started a fight after catching Andy stealing from the communal fridge. Adam (Ben's son) and Heath (the manager) are considered out of the running. The other five cast their ballots, and Heath reads them out: Andy and Mel have voted for Ben to leave, Craig and Maddie for him to stay. Heath's sister Sasha has written "Maybe", eventually agreeing to let him stay. In any case, Ben moved out three episodes later.
- One episode of Night Court has the cast trapped in the morgue when the courthouse catches fire on Election Day. Dan is running for a seat in the election. After the group is freed, Dan discovers he lost by one vote. The cast was unable to vote due to being trapped in the morgue, except for Bull who voted against Dan for all of the insults he had to put up with. After all is said and done, a recount discovers that there was one vote for Dan that wasn't counted and the election is now a tie.
- Cruelly, but justifiably mocked by a Top 10 countdown featured on one 80's episode of Late Night with David Letterman; the list being Top Ten Reason Why You Should Vote This Year.
Dave Letterman: Number 2 - Even though it hasn't happened in the last 213 years, and probably won't happen in the next 213 years, YOUR ONE VOTE COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!
- The Dukes of Hazzard managed to combine types 1, 2, and 3 into one election. Boss Hogg is up for reelection and the Dukes decide to run a friend of theirs against him. After all the votes are counted, Type 2 comes up and the results are a tie. They notice that the county clerk hasn't voted yet because he's getting married. The Dukes retrieve him and get him to place his vote (with the wedding taking place in the back of their truck). Then Type 3 comes up when he votes for the Dukes' friend instead of Boss Hogg. While Boss Hogg is complaining about his loss, it's time for Type 1 and the reveal that Roscoe forgot to vote.
- Discussed on Just Shoot Me! with an upcoming election. Maya tries to get Elliot to vote, but he refuses. She later comes to him with several examples of elections that were decided by one vote. He interrupts her with the revelation that he can't vote due to being a convicted felon.
- In the television series version of J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, the contentious Parish Pagford Council election that is the main over-arching subject of the series is won by Miles Mollison by just one vote. Notably, the election inspired such disgust that 35 voters simply submitted vandalized ballots as a form of protest.
- On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Lillian's election to the city council was literally decided by one vote, because Kimmy was the only registered voter in the district.
- On the L.A. Law episode "Blood, Sweat and Fears," Leland announces he's stepping down as senior partner of the firm, and an election will be held by the seven partners to choose a new one. Douglas, Stuart and Rosalind Shays declare their candidacy. Rosalind wins by one vote.note
- The 2002 election between Jeanine Argus and Rose Trellis for the state senate was decided by one vote, with Jeanine winning. By law, Rose could call for a recount, but because Jeanine had saved her from being killed by a falling light, she declined. It's strongly suggested that it was Rose's executive assistant Wendy that turned the tide, turning her back on her Bad Boss to vote for Jeanine.
Luis: Jenny and her ego...Samantha: After 2000, though, she might have a point.
- In 2004, (in the Safe Havens comic), Jenny rubs it in her friends' faces that while they're too young to vote, she isn't, and declares that her single vote will decide the presidency.
- Wooden Overcoats has the mayoral election in Season Three resolved this way. Out of the entire town, only four people actually showed up to the polls. Desmond and Eric (the candidates) voted for each other, Georgie voted for Desmond, and Antigone submitted a blank ballot out of protest. Thus, Desmond wins!
- Eumenides: The jury is tied on whether to convict Orestes. In ancient Athens, a tie went to the defendant, so Orestes gets to go free.
- The premise of Shattered Union involves an unpopular president being elected by a very short margin (Does This Remind You of Anything?). He somehow proceeds to get all the other candidates disqualified in the next election, leaving him the only contender. This causes massive unrest, and he ends up imposing martial law on the West Coast. Domestic terrorism is on the rise, culminating in a nuke being planted in Washington, D.C. The President and most of the government officials are killed. Then states start seceding one-by-one and Divided States of America ensues.
- Played for laughs in Stand Still, Stay Silent:
The one positive aspect of your silly expedition was its refreshingly low budget. Otherwise, the consensus was that it serves no national good and carries a substantial risk of complete failure. Your application passed with a single vote, and I believe one of my colleagues only voted "yes" because he lost his glasses and didn't know what he was voting for.
- The Order of the Stick plays this multiple times over with the Godsmoot. Each of the three pantheons gets one vote on whether or not to destroy the world. The Southern Pantheon votes no and the Western Pantheon votes yes; the results of the polling of the individual gods in these pantheons is not shown. This leaves it to the Northern Pantheon, whose clerics are all in attendance. While the first votes lean heavily towards not destroying the world, a late run brings it to an 8-8 tie with, it is believed, only one vote left. Except they didn't count on a cleric of Hel being present, and Hel's vote reties the vote at 9-9 (a reverse Type 1, as the 9-8 vote would've favored the heroes), which means that the demigods must break the tie. 7 demigods have representatives present, and Hel believes she has the requisite 4 votes to destroy the world, but Hermod, demigod of messengers, thought that he would only be voting as such as a protest vote and refuses to be the vote to seal the deal, leaving that vote tied at 3-3 pending the vote of Dvalin, first king of the dwarves, who never votes without consulting the Dwarven Council of Elders. So we're currently waiting for the vote that will decide the vote that will decide the vote that will decide the vote. (4-3, 10-9, 2-1)
- Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72: A four-way U.S. presidential election in 1972 results in no candidate winning a majority of electoral votes, and thus leaving the election to be decided by Congress as directed by the 12th Amendment. The Senate selects the Vice President from the top two candidates: incumbent Spiro Agnew (Richard Nixons running mate) and Birch Bayh (John McKeithens running mate). Due to several Senators voting against their respective partys VP candidate, the result is a 50-50 tie. Agnew, as the incumbent VP, uses his tie-breaking power to vote for himself, thus reelecting himself by one vote. Things go downhill from there...
- One of the shorts of an early episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle had the title characters running against each other for the position of President of their fan club. After vigorous campaigning, the day of the election arrived and Bullwinkle was first to the polls. After voting, he was called by Boris, who informed him that he had won "by a landslide". This being the mountainous region of Frostbite Falls, he was of course referring to an actual landslide, which trapped Bullwinkle in the building where the vote was taking place and prevented anyone else from getting to it. Bullwinkle responded by saying that Rocky was the winner, since that was who he actually voted for.
- Played With in Teacher's Pet, where Scott and Leonard are running against each other for class president. On election day they get the same number of votes and their teacher isn't sure how to break the tie... so she awards the presidency to the third place nominee Ian, who only received one vote (his own).
- Plot point in the American Dad! episode, "It's Good to be the Queen". Stan came with Francine to her reunion only caring that he's married to the homecoming queen. Francine had won by one vote against Betty Sue who became devastated is currently obese. It is revealed that two ballots were uncounted both for Betty Sue. Francine had never won causes Stan to freak out and decides to go out with Betty Sue.
- Subverted in Beavis and Butt-Head:
Van Driesen: The results are in, and you guys lost with one vote.Butthead: Woah! That was close.Van Driesen: No, Butthead, you only received one vote.
- In "Franklin and the Gecko Games" from Franklin and Friends the vote to decide who gets to pet-sit the gecko Gordon for the summer, either Franklin or Beaver, is decided by one vote... or would be, except that Goose actually votes for both Franklin and Beaver and is told she can make her choice the next day. Still unable to decide, she holds the Gecko Games to decide which one will get this last deciding vote.
- In running campaigns to try to get people to go out to vote, politicians will sometimes trot out as a statistic the number of elections that have been decided by one vote within a particular city, state, province, etc. as a means of convincing people their vote matters.
- Louis XVI was the subject of several votes after being imprisoned during the The French Revolution, but the vote which decided upon his immediate execution was (essentially) 360-to-361.
- The Vice President of the United States also serves as the President of the Senate, but only gets a vote when the votes from the senators are tied, making any vote in which the VP is involved fall under this.
- During the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, he was ultimately acquitted by the senate by a vote of 19 vs 35, coming up just short of the 36 vote supermajority (2/3 of votes) required by US law to convict the President.
- The 1876 United States presidential election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. While Tilden received a majority of the popular vote, Hayes beat him in the Electoral College 185 to 184, including 20 disputed votes. The disputed votes were the result of double returns for votes in three states and an illegal elector in a fourth. These votes were given to Hayes two days before his inauguration, on the condition that federal troops be withdrawn from the South, ending the Reconstruction Era. The decision to reward the votes to Hayes was also decided by one vote, as the Electoral Commission voted 8-7 in favor of Hayes.
- A non-political example in pro baseball: After a pitcher-dominated 1960's that saw scoring down and fan interest begin to wane, the American League voted to adopt the designated hitter rule that would allow fielders to bat in place of the pitcher (who usually sucks at the plate), leading to an increase in offense in the AL and fan attendance perking up again in the 1970's. This led to the National League considering whether to adopt the rule as well. A vote took place in 1980, where among the twelve NL teams there needed to be more "Yes" than "No" votes for it to pass. Originally, Philadelphia Phillies vice president Bill Giles intended to vote "yes", but he wasn't sure if his boss owner Ruly Carpenter wanted to still support it once the teams were informed that the rule wouldn't go into effect until 1982, and he couldn't get in contact with Carpenter because he was on a fishing trip. Without confirmation from his boss, Giles abstained from the vote instead; this in turn caused Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Harding Peterson to also abstain as he had been instructed to follow the Phillies' lead. The measure failed, with four votes in favor, five against, and three abstentions. Years later it was revealed that Carpenter did want to have the DH, but for want of a telephone line rather than a fishing line the NL still has pitchers batting to this day.
- The United Kingdom local elections in 2017 saw Northumberland County Council remain in no overall controlnote . However, this was due to the Conservatives literally drawing a short straw - South Blyth saw a tie between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, and if this happens, a tie-break is held with that counting as an extra vote. Had the Liberal Democrat candidate drawn the short straw, the Conservatives would have won that seat and, with it, overall control of Northumberland County Council.
- A double example occurred in the 2017 Virginia House of Delegates elections. After a recount, Democratic candidate Shelly Simonds won her seat by a single vote, and her election in turn resulted in a 50-50 split in the House of Delegates, replacing Republican control of the chamber with a power-sharing arrangement...until a panel of judges ruled a previously discarded ballot was declared a valid vote for Republican incumbent David Yanceynote . votes were counted again and it was discovered that the result was a tie. The winner was decided by a name being pulled out of a bowl, which ultimately was Yanceys, allowing them to maintain a very narrow majority. However, in 2019, courts would order several districts redrawn including the tied district. The new district was replaced by one much more Democratic than the old one, and Simonds ran again that year and won her race.
- Before deciding to file the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case on behalf of a black school whose students suffered from terrible conditions detrimental to learning, the NAACP decided to put it to a vote among the students they were going to be representing: did they want to pursue integration, or to fight for the actual equal treatment to which they were entitled under Separate But Equal? Integration won, by a single vote.