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Calling election winners

How we call the races that matter

Our journalists are armed with on-the-ground knowledge of their territory

We have a long and successful track record of calling election winners quickly and accurately for our customers around the world. No other organization can match our 50-state coverage.

“Calling races, from the national level to state legislatures, is a vital function the AP provides to its members and customers.

Being able to accurately and quickly call those statewide and state-level races is critical to their ability to provide strong election night coverage.”

- Sally Buzbee, Washington Bureau Chief

On the ground and in the bureaus delivering the most accurate information

Map of United States AP bureaus

The responsibility for calling races rests with experienced journalists in each state. They are armed with on-the-ground knowledge of their territory that no other national news organization can match. In addition, they have a wealth of 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.

On election night, race callers in each state are assisted by experts in our Washington bureau who examine exit poll numbers and votes as they are counted. A "decision desk" in Washington, headed by the Washington bureau chief, has the final signoff on all top-of-the-ticket calls.

How we call a race

Collect the votes

Our stringers collect votes at a local level from county clerks throughout the night.

Key in the data

A dedicated vote entry clerk keys in results.

Deliver the results, fast

Results are posted on member websites and used in broadcast, newspaper stories, etc. Results are updated throughout the evening and the days following election day.

Phone in the results

Stringer phones in results to a vote entry clerk in Spokane, Washington, or our Vote Entry Center.

Double check, and check again

Votes are filtered through an intense series of checks and verifications. We were 99.9 percent accurate in calling U.S. races in 2012.

Want to learn more about our vote counting process?

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