Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Garbage In, Garbage Out

It might be time to reassess how we deliver election night coverage.  In yet another vote, what appeared to be a victory for one candidate at the end of election night, has turned out to possibly be a different result this morning.  The latest case involves the Republican primary in the 6th Congressional District where the Associated Press declared State Senator Glenn Grothman the winner at 11:00 last night.  OK, we here at the Radio Ranch go with that (since the AP is our "trusted" statewide news source) talk with Grothman about the win and set up an interview with Bob Burnell this morning to discuss the race against Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris.  Everybody goes to bed satisfied with what has happened

But then, at 2:30 this morning, we find out that the Sheboygan County Clerk has issued completely different vote totals that had been posted all night.  Some sort of computer glitch was causing State Senator Joe Liebham's vote totals to be under-reported.  Sheboygan County just happens to be Liebham's home base and the source of his greatest support in the primary race.  All of a sudden, the easy victory that was declared for Grothman is a razor thin margin of just 215-votes--with a few precincts still to report.

This comes after the infamous "bags of ballots" that "we forgot to count" in Waukesha County a few years ago--which turned around a State Supreme Court race in favor of the "Conservative" candidate--and the tearful press conference from the Clerk trying to explain how that happened.  That of course was followed by a statewide recount and lawsuits.

And that was preceded by an overnight reversal in an Oshkosh School Board race about 10-years ago--where we got "all precincts reporting" and interviewed who we were told was the "winner"--only to find out the next morning that there were "copied ballots in the Town of Algoma" that hadn't been hand-counted yet--leading to a new winner actually getting the seat.

And then there was the debacle of 2000--when Al Gore was declared winner of the Florida election--only to have everyone backtrack on that--followed by hanging chads, "count all the votes" protests and multiple lawsuits.

Obviously, we don't want to go back to the days when newspapers ruled the media world and you waited two days to find out who won an election.  And we don't want to renew the errors of the Voter News Service days, when winners were declared moments after (and sometimes before) polls closed based solely on exit polls and results from certain "targeted districts".  But there has to be someway to provide more accurate election night coverage than what is being provided now.  What I can't understand is that computers count the ballots--and then report the results to computers in clerk's offices.  So why aren't those numbers matching up?  Banks seem to have no problem keeping our balances correct.  The Monopoly Chance card with "Bank Error in your favor--collect 200-dollars" is considered quaint today because that really never happens anymore.  Yet, every election cycle, we send you the listener to bed with one declared winner--and a "hold the phone" re-write the next morning.

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