Election Night Projections Need to Improve

My wife, who is almost never sick, has been laid low by influenza for the last three days, and this has thrown a real monkey wrench into our Thanksgiving plans and preparations. I need to step up to the plate here, so this post will be brief.

There is nothing out of the ordinary here. The main reason Hillary Clinton’s popular vote victory kept growing and growing weeks after the election was over was because California takes a long time to count their ballots and the late ballots trend much more Democratic than the ones that are cast early.

What I’d like to see in the future is more recognition of this fact when the media cover election results.  First impressions mean a lot, and they can actually have real-world implications for the eventual outcome of close elections, as we saw when the 2000 Florida recount was shut down. Had Al Gore been closer on the election night, he would not have conceded only to have to take back his concession shortly thereafter. And if he had been holding a narrow lead as the chad-fiasco unfolded, it would have been a different drama in every respect, with the Supreme Court more interested in prolonging the process than in bringing it to a premature close.

We’ve now seen this post-Election Day surge for Democrats in California repeat itself enough times to be able to anticipate it, and it’s something that happens in other states too, to greater or lesser degrees depending on their partisan lean and how they conduct their absentee, provisional and/or mail-in voting.

The Networks should really have a built-in and ready assessment of how many votes candidates stand to pick-up after 100 percent of the precincts have reported.  It wasn’t impossible to predict that the Democrats would ultimately win all or most of the close elections in which they were trailing when we went to sleep on November 6th, especially in California.  Failing to do so impacted the narrative and could have conceivably changed the outcome in a race or two.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. I have to get to work.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.