Understanding the Election | AP
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Our role in US elections

AP's essential role in elections

AP, the most trusted source of information on election night with a history of accuracy dating to 1848, offers that expertise to its member news organizations, customers and the public across all platforms when it counts the vote, declares the winners and covers the results in U.S. elections.

Follow our complete election coverage on apnews.com.

Counting votes

AP has been counting the vote for over 170 years and has experience tabulating elections that aren’t decided on Election Day.

Calling races

AP declares winners in thousands of races, starting with the White House and reaching down the ballot to every seat in every state legislature. In 2020, we were 99.9% accurate in calling U.S. races, and 100% accurate in calling the presidential and congressional races for each state. 

Explaining the electorate

AP VoteCast, the wide-ranging survey of the American electorate, uses the ideal methodology to conduct accurate research about the electorate during a pandemic.

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How we count the vote

Instead of relying on crowd-sourcing or vulnerable technology, our 50-state network of local reporters have first-hand knowledge of their territories and trusted relationships with county clerks and other local officials. Our stringers collect the votes and phone them into vote entry clerks who key in the data. We also gather results from county and state websites and electronic data feeds. Votes are subject to an intense series of checks and verifications. 

How we call races

In 2020, we were 99.9% accurate in calling U.S. races, and 100% accurate in calling the presidential and congressional races for each state. On election night, race callers in each state are equipped with detailed information from our election research team, including demographics, the number of absentee ballots, and political issues that may affect the outcome of races they must call. Race callers are also assisted by experts in our Washington bureau. A decision desk in Washington, headed by the Washington bureau chief, has the final signoff on all top-of-the-ticket calls. AP declared Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election at 11:26 a.m. ET on Nov. 7. 

Research and reporting

AP VoteCast

We meet voters where they are by conducting AP VoteCast by mail, phone and online, using an approach designed for how America votes today and how it will increasingly vote in the future: early, absentee and by mail.

Election research

AP has for years employed a full-time elections research team that works year-round to ensure our vote count team, our decision desk and newsroom – and therefore our member news organizations and customers – know as much as possible about what to expect once Election Day arrives.

Election coverage

50-state footprint

AP is transparent in its coverage about what is happening before, during and after Election Day, providing a plethora of explanatory journalism. With political reporters based in key states around the country – and reporters on the ground in all 50 states – AP provides election coverage in text, photos, video and live video.

Debunking misinformation

Fact-checking, a central function of AP for decades, has never been more important. Our campaign coverage includes strong accountability journalism and a robust fact-checking effort that combats misinformation with facts. AP's dedicated Fact Check team works with our journalists in all 50 states and in 250 locations around the world to combat misinformation wherever it pops up.

From The Definitive Source