As the Associated Press Goes, So Goes the Nation

So how will we know who has won the election? It’s not a government body or usually even the candidates themselves who reveal who has won, but the Associated Press that reliably tells the world accurate election results.  

As a 17-year veteran of the AP, your newsletter editor has spent many an election night in the Washington bureau where these determinations are traditionally fueled by repeated pizza deliveries into the wee hours of the morning. This year will be different – the AP’s DC bureau that has been closed since March is re-opening with a small crew for the election but sadly pizza cannot be shared.

What does remain is the AP’s massive operation for declaring the victors in the presidential, congressional and other races. The wire service says it has more than 4,000 freelance reporters nationwide who will collect vote counts from every county in the nation, then phone in the results to a call center that has gone virtual this year.

“The A.P. will make the call only when it is certain — just as it has in every U.S. election since 1848, when Zachary Taylor won the White House,” as the New York Times reported Monday.

“The general consensus is if the AP declares a winner, it must be true,” Esquire explained.

The television networks make their own projections, but they rely on the AP’s data to cross-reference their work. This complicated year, news organizations are pledging extra caution in their calls. And the AP plans to show its work, writing stories explaining how it made its decisions or why they are holding back in tight races.