Posted in Behind the News

Decision 2016: Calling the winners

, by Lauren Easton

With a history of calling election winners quickly and accurately for its member news organizations and customers in the U.S. and around the world, AP is poised to again do so on Nov. 8.

David Pace, news editor for elections and special projects, explains what’s different this year when it comes to calling races.

Four years ago, 35 percent of people voted ahead of time. Do we have a sense of how high that number will be this year? What kind of challenge does that present?

Given the steady increase in advance voting over the past decade, we expect that more than 40 percent of all votes will be cast before Election Day. Our challenge is to determine when and how those advance votes are added to the election night count. And that will vary from state to state, and even from county to county in some states. Before calling a race in a state with a significant absentee vote, we have to be certain that the advance vote is included in the count or that we have an accurate way to measure its potential impact on the final outcome.

What will you have a sharp eye out for on election night?

This has been such a bizarre campaign that we will be carefully monitoring how voters are responding when asked to complete an exit poll questionnaire. We intend to be very conservative in using the exit poll to inform our race calls until we have sufficient vote from exit poll precincts to measure how much the exit poll is overstating or understating each candidate’s vote percentage.

Anything else you would like to raise?

Compared to the most recent election, this one has more states potentially in play, more voter dissatisfaction with the major party candidates, and more choices for voters in terms of minor party candidates. Add to that the uncertainties around turnout, and you have a recipe for election night surprises.

Read more about how AP calls races here.