How much does a vote cost? Estimates vary wildly, from $5 to $175, Slate reports in its Explainer column. In 2008, winners spent an average of $1.3 million to win roughly 185,000 votes, meaning each vote cost around $7, while losers spent an average $493,000 for 91,000 votes, for an average of $5.24 per vote. But of course, some of those votes didn’t have to be bought, because many voters simply vote along party lines.
The cost to sway an undecided vote is trickier to calculate. Steven Levitt (of Freakonomics fame) once estimated, using multiple races between the same opponents as guides, that each vote cost a whopping $175. A George Mason study pegged the number at around $59. But one thing is clear: Money certainly appears capable of buying votes. Since 2004, the bigger spender has won 95% of all House races.