Online projects promise to report results in real time,
Online projects promise to relay results, irregularities before winner declared
Watching the election will never be the same.
While many will still tune into CNN or other cable networks to follow the U.S. presidential results after voting ends, new technology and a breach of an unwritten rule in American media mean that some people will already have a good idea of the winner.
Real-time voting results, using methods that mimic internal campaign projections, will be publicly available for the first time Tuesday, allowing electors to see how their peers are voting even before they cast their own ballot.
At the same time, two projects with competing visions of election rigging have announced their intention to use web platforms to report voting irregularities as they happen. One side is deploying volunteers expecting to find cases of voters prevented from voting, while the other anticipates that ineligible people will be permitted to vote.
Taken together, these initiatives will combine to take presidential elections from the era of live TV to the age of real-time web reporting. Vote tallies on the fly The past several elections, by convention, American television networks have refused to report exit poll data before voting closed in a particular state, under the belief that it might influence electors. This year, Slate.com is breaking that taboo, but they’re taking it a notch further.
Instead of using exit polls, which have proven to be notoriously inaccurate, Slate is teaming up with pollsters and digital strategists recruited from both parties to publish election results while the polls are still open.
The project, called Votecastr, conducts extensive polling before the election, producing a detailed picture of likely outcomes in selected districts and even individual voting stations. Then thousands of workers are deployed to polling stations around the country to report voter turnout over the course of the day.
By combining live voter turnout with the earlier polling, Votecastr can gauge if Hillary Clinton supporters are coming out in strong numbers and if Donald Trump voters have decided to stay home. This method, employed by presidential campaigns for decades, has proven to be a remarkably accurate predictor of actual results.
“Our goal is not to beat the networks and wire services to declaring winners and losers — election night will still belong to their analysts and their magic walls — but to guarantee that citizens who have been entrusted with a vote also have access to as much information as possible about how their fellow citizens are voting,” wrote Sasha Issenberg, the editorial director at Votecastr, in an essay on Slate.
“Why shouldn’t voters have access to the same information used to profile and sort them, information that can help make sense of the way that candidates market to them through the election’s final hours?”
In Canada, reporting East Coast results before polls were closed on the West Coast used to be banned by law. Last year, Elections Canada dropped the ban, but also decided to mitigate the potential for early results to impact later voters by staggering the opening hours for polling stations across the country. Issenberg argues there’s no data to support the idea that knowledge of how others are voting discourages people from voting and believes these efforts to curb information will ultimately be futile. Vote suppression Prompted by policies that have made it harder to vote, Electionland, an online vote-suppression reporting project, is stitching together a network of computer programmers, observers and reporters across the U.S. to monitor voting conditions and flag problems.
The initiative, sponsored by the non-profit journalism project ProPublica and other organizations, including USA Today, Univision and Google News Lab, will gather leads on voting problems — gleaned from Internet searches, social media posts and volunteers on the ground — and pass them to local reporters tasked with investigating access to the polls.
By tweeting out the stories produced, the project hopes to document long lines, machine breakdowns, ballot confusion, fraudulent voting and intimidation.
“I don’t want to overhype the po- tential for this because, for the most part, elections are really well run in the United States and many places don’t see these types of issues,” said Derek Willis, a reporter/developer on the project. “But there is a combination of factors we’re seeing this year that . . . is a very different thing than we’ve seen in the past.”
The project was conceived after a wave of Republican-sponsored legislation that critics contend makes it harder for visible minorities and the poor to vote.
Seventeen states have enacted stricter voter ID laws. Voting stations in black areas in Florida have been closed or moved and advanced polls have been shortened in Ohio.
Alabama shuttered 31 driver’s licence offices, almost all of them in African-American communities, making it harder for people to obtain ID needed to vote. Georgia proactively purged 372,000 voters from the rolls, reportedly sending court summons to black voters demanding they appear before a judge and prove they maintain a valid address. But Democrats have been challenging these changes in court and have succeeded in rolling many of them back.
North Carolina’s stricter voter ID laws that were in place for the primaries have been struck down by the Supreme Court. Now, election volunteers are being trained on the new rules and signs stating “No photo ID needed to vote” are supposed to be displayed at voting stations.
“This will be the first election in many years in which large portions of the Voting Rights Act aren’t applicable in places where they used to be,” Willis said. “There is a responsibility on our part . . . to protect the rights of citizens to vote.” Voter fraud On the other side of the aisle is a project premised on Trump’s contention the election is “rigged” and individual voter fraud — a phenomenon that is statistically insignificant — could affect its outcome. A group calling itself the Vote Protectors will deploy volunteers on election day to conduct exit polls in an effort to “defeat the ever-growing corruption within our election process.”
Vote Protectors didn’t return a request for comment, but its website, StopTheSteal.com, explains the project is based on “a uniformed exit poll that Vote Protectors will conduct at every polling place in America, to ensure continuous integrity throughout the democratic process.”
The tactic hearkens back to a 1981 election in New Jersey, where the Republican National Committee recruited a “National Ballot Security Task Force” of volunteers wearing arm bands — and sometimes holstered firearms — to monitor the vote. The Democratic National Committee sued the next year and won a court order prohibiting this kind of voter intimidation that remains on the books today.
But Trump’s campaign isn’t bound by that order (though the DNC is suing the RNC saying it’s illegally helping Trump) and Roger Stone, who was involved in the New Jersey election 35 years ago, is openly organizing the Vote Protectors.
The project has already registered more than 2,500 “exit pollers,” whose results will be compiled in an online results map.
It’s a familiar touch that closely resembles the red and blue maps people are used to seeing on TV, only this one is titled “popular vote (citizen exit polls).”
Two projects with competing visions about election rigging will use web platforms to report suspected irregularities.