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Election 'Night' May Not Exist Anymore

Media writer Ben Smith writes that Americans are not prepared for a count that takes longer
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2020 7:21 AM CDT

(Newser) – Of all the predictions about how Election 2020 might unfold, one seems safest of all: The night of November 3 is going to be a mess. Media writer Ben Smith of the New York Times writes that this year's election night is going to be far different than any in modern history because of the extra time needed to count mail-in ballots or votes otherwise not cast in traditional Election Day fashion. After interviewing TV election analysts, execs, and hosts, he found that some are shrugging off the problem. But "I was alarmed by the near panic among some of the people paying the closest attention—the analysts and producers trying, and often failing, to get answers from state election officials about how and when they will count the ballots and report results." The gist of his analysis is that Americans are not properly prepared for how this is going to play out.

“I don’t think it’s penetrated enough in the average viewer’s mind that there’s not going to be an election night," says Brandon Finnigan of Decision Desk HQ, which provides results to media outlets. "The usual razzmatazz of a panel sitting around discussing election results—that’s dead." There's nothing inherently wrong with taking days or weeks to count ballots, writes Smith, but the format TV networks use to deliver results runs counter to that process. Drawing on advice from political scientists, Smith suggests the media should embark on an extensive educational campaign to start schooling people on the need for patience. Ditching traditional election-night features such as "percent of precincts reporting" might help, too, given that mail-in ballots might still be sitting in warehouses. Read the full analysis. (Another factor: President Trump continues to predict voter fraud.)

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