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November 4, 2020

How do news outlets decide when it’s time to call elections?

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. To read the transcript of the video above, click here

Summary: The pandemic and the potential for record voter turnout are setting the stage for an election like no other we have seen. But what happens after the polling places close? The NewsHour has always relied upon the Associated Press to call race winners. As predicted, no clearer winner of the election emerged on Election Day.

SOURCE: AP – Results as of: Nov 04, 2020 7:32 AM EST | Next Update: 7:34 AM EST

Discussion:

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

    • Who officially decides when states have been won by one candidate or the other?
    • What is the role of the media in calling elections?
    • When and where does the AP news service decide to call elections?
    • Why is it important not to call elections too early?
    • How do state results determine the outcomes of national elections?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Focus questions:

  1. Do you think news outlets should project winners before all votes are counted? Why or why not?
  2. The AP says it does not speculate when it comes to projected the winner. How are they able to predict the winner of a state so accurately?
  3. What are some ways you can think of that would make vote counting and reporting faster while maintaining fairness and accuracy?

Media literacy: How do you decide what information you find online about election results is reliable or not?

  • If interested in a lesson exploring how to spot disinformation online, click here.

Dig deeper: Many experts have noted that this presidential election may be contested long after Election Day itself. There is a good chance states may not have a complete and accurate count of votes by November 3, partly due to record turnouts, record vote by mail and new COVID-19 precautions. President Donald Trump and others have already suggested they will challenge counts of ballots after Election Day. But what would a contested election look like? Use this lesson to explore how previous contested elections shaped history, including the contest of 2000.

 


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