How Does AP Call An Election? Answer to This and More As It Rolls Out Election Night Plans

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By: Joe Strupp

Still considered by many as the most authoritative source for declaring winners on Election Night, Tthe Associated Press relies on its state bureau chiefs for much of the insight.

Offering voters and journalists an inside look at how it prepares for what may be the most watched Election Night in decades, AP stressed that it is up to the bureau chiefs to use their knowledge of local areas and background to decide when a race is to be called.

“The Associated Press calls races at scheduled poll closings when our political experts and analysts are satisfied a candidate has a significant winning margin,” the news organization declared in a release Monday. “They weigh a number of factors, including voter turnout, previous voting patterns, Election Day exit polling, telephone polls of absentee or early voters, and the experience of AP journalists who have covered the campaigns. When our analysis indicates a candidate has that significant winning margin, we will call the race at the scheduled poll close hour even if voting has been extended briefly in selected precincts. As always, we do not call races until we are confident of that winning margin, whether at poll close or many hours or days later.”

Those and other tidbits are on a lengthy examination of Election Night processes and policies at AP’s Web site:

AP has a right to boast given its record of few errors in Election Night reporting, including its position as the only major news outlet not to declare George Bush or Al Gore the winner on Election Night 2000.

?Know your state,? Kevin Walsh, AP Florida bureau chief in 2000, says on the Web site. ?You can?t make effective election night decisions if you don?t understand voting patterns and changing demographics in your state. Take time in advance of the general election to understand the latest trends in Census data and state and county demographic research. Talk with a state or university demographic research expert. Assign a story on the subject as part of your pre-election coverage package. Demographic changes can have profound implications on traditional voting patterns on the county level, particularly with states with high immigration and increasing diversity.?

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