EXPLAINER: Why might live election results fluctuate?

Oct 25, 2022, 6:00 PM | Updated: Oct 26, 2022, 6:16 am
FILE - The phrase "Count Every Vote" is displayed on a large screen, organized by an advocacy group...

FILE - The phrase "Count Every Vote" is displayed on a large screen, organized by an advocacy group in front of the State Capitol on Nov. 6, 2020, in Lansing, Mich. As local election offices across the U.S. count millions of votes on election night, Nov. 8, 2022, they share the results with polling firms, which transmit them to viewers watching live on their devices. Along the way, humans reporting these results occasionally make errors, causing false vote counts to temporarily appear in TV news graphics. However, these small mistakes are not a sign of anything nefarious — and fortunately, quality control measures in election offices and polling firms ensure they happen rarely and get fixed quickly. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Why might live election results fluctuate?

The short answer: People make typos sometimes.

As local election offices across the U.S. count millions of votes on election night, they share the results with polling firms, which transmit them to viewers watching live on their TV, laptop or phone screens.

Along the way, humans reporting these results occasionally transpose two digits, add an extra zero or swap candidate tallies, causing false vote counts to temporarily appear in news graphics and social media updates.

Here’s why that’s not a big deal:

CAUGHT! … FIXING AN ERROR

In recent years, hawk-eyed viewers at home have noticed some of these brief election-night slip-ups and used them to falsely claim they’d caught TV networks or election offices switching or deleting votes to rig the results.

However, these small mistakes are not a sign of anything nefarious — and fortunately, quality control measures in election offices and polling firms ensure they happen rarely and get fixed quickly.

In elections offices, clerks test voting equipment before voting begins to ensure tabulators are functioning properly. On Election Day, poll workers report any issues with results, such as differences between the number of voters who cast a ballot and the number of votes recorded. After voting is complete, officials use canvass and certification processes to continue hunting for discrepancies and verify tallies.

Companies that track down these local election results and share them with media outlets on election night also have safeguards in place to catch errors. These measures include questioning unusual data, using computer software to identify discrepancies and employing quality control analysts to check the numbers.

HOW DOES THE AP DO IT?

The Associated Press, one of several companies that does this type of real-time vote reporting, sends thousands of local stringers to county election offices on election night to call in raw vote count totals. The AP employees who take the stringers’ calls ask questions to make sure the information is accurate, including asking whether there are problems in the stringer’s county, and challenging details if the results seem suspect.

Since many states and counties display their election night results on websites, some AP data entry staffers monitor those sites and enter results into the database, too, entries that are also checked and rechecked.

Next, automated checks identify data inconsistencies and refer them to a supervisor. And the AP’s team of full-time election research and quality control analysts further monitor and examine the results for anomalies.

WHAT ABOUT THE NETWORKS?

Edison Research, the firm whose data fuels live election night reports from ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC, similarly goes through a quality control process as votes are coming in and afterward, said Executive Vice President Rob Farbman.

In addition, in key states and counties, the company employs two people to look at each vote count before it is reported.

A few errors are inevitable, Farbman said, but “they always get fixed.”

___

Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard contributed to this report from New York.

___

Check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections. And follow the AP’s coverage of the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Participants get ready for the Miss Trans Northeast 22, beauty pageant in Guwahati, India, Wednesda...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: Pageant celebrates transgender life in India

GUWAHATI, India (AP) — Anilya Boro may not have won the crown at India’s Miss Trans NE pageant this year, but having her parents there in support was a validation in its own right. “I must prove to my parents that I can do something as a girl,” said the 22-year-old. “I didn’t win a […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: December 4, the “Million Dollar Quartet”

Today in History Today is Sunday, Dec. 4, the 338th day of 2022. There are 27 days left in the year. Today’s Highlights in History: On Dec. 4, 1956, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins gathered for the first and only time for a jam session at Sun Records in Memphis. […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

BOYS PREP BASKETBALL= Blaine 80, Bear Creek School 38 Jackson 66, Mark Morris 62 Union 70, Lewis and Clark 51 POSTPONEMENTS AND CANCELLATIONS= Olympic vs. Crosspoint Academy, ppd. Sedro-Woolley vs. Meadowdale, ppd. to Dec 3rd. ___ Some high school basketball scores provided by Scorestream.com, https://scorestream.com/ Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL= Camas 73, Archbishop Murphy 35 Friday Harbor 31, Bellingham 29 Mead 73, West Linn, Ore. 35 POSTPONEMENTS AND CANCELLATIONS= Crosspoint Academy vs. Olympic, ppd. ___ Some high school basketball scores provided by Scorestream.com, https://scorestream.com/ Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Saturday’s Scores

BOYS PREP BASKETBALL= Firth 65, Fruitland 64, OT Highland 58, Salmon River 52 Kimberly 55, Homedale 39 Rigby 62, Mountain View 57 St. Maries 69, Kendrick 48 Timpview, Utah 48, Madison 33 CHARGER TOURNAMENT= Hillcrest 50, Pleasant Grove, Utah 44 ___ Some high school basketball scores provided by Scorestream.com, https://scorestream.com/ Copyright © The Associated Press. […]
22 hours ago
Georgia celebrates a win against LSU in the after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA col...
Associated Press

SEC halftime contest booed, both students awarded $100,000

ATLANTA (AP) — Just what the Dr ordered. Two college students each wound up winning $100,000 in tuition Saturday, shortly after boos filled Mercedes-Benz Stadium because of a confusing ending in a halftime contest during the SEC championship game. Fans at the LSU-Georgia game jeered when one of the competitors appeared to capture the Dr […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
EXPLAINER: Why might live election results fluctuate?