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Understanding the election

AP's essential role in elections

AP, the most trusted source of information on election night with a history of accuracy dating to 1848, will offer 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 the U.S. presidential election.

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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 will count the vote and declare winners in some 7,000 races this November, so the world knows as soon as possible who wins not only the White House, but control of Congress and every state legislature.

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.

The Associated Press

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 2016, we were 99.8% 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 Donald Trump the winner of the 2016 presidential election at 2:29 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

Research and reporting

AP VoteCast

AP VoteCast debuted in 2018 as an alternative to the traditional exit poll, and in many ways it uses the ideal methodology to conduct accurate research about the electorate during a pandemic. 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. This year, with so many changes taking place due to the pandemic, that research is more important to our work than ever before.

Election coverage

50-state footprint

AP is committed to reporting extensively on how the 2020 presidential election will work, explaining why results may be delayed and what it all means. We will be transparent in our coverage about what is happening before, during and after Election Day. With political reporters based in key states around the country – and reporters on the ground in all 50 states – AP is also looking hard at whether the pandemic, the economic crisis and the national reckoning over race has changed what people want from their government. Election coverage is offered 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.

Why this election is different

The coronavirus pandemic means more Americans than ever before will cast their ballots ahead of Election Day. This may affect when we will know who won the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

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From The Definitive Source