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AP pauses to get story of ‘discarded’ Trump ballots right

AP resisted competitive pressure, holding off on a Department of Justice press release on an investigation into “discarded” military ballots for President Donald Trump, instead taking the time to do a more deeply reported story.

Most media rushed to publish when a U.S. attorney in the battleground state of Pennsylvania took the unusual step of announcing the ongoing investigation, saying nine mail-in ballots for the president had been “cast aside” in a county elections office. The county manager later blamed the incident on confusion over the appearance of the envelopes, but conservative social media quickly seized on the initial announcement while the Trump campaign blamed Democrats for “trying to steal the election.”

The original press release, however, was short on details and no one, federal or local, was talking. So AP took a step back. Pennsylvania news editor Christina Paciolla brought the story to the attention of AP’s voting team, and a deeper examination began.

The AP drew on expertise across the organization, including Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, reporter Mark Scolforo, Atlanta-based reporter and voting expert Christina Cassidy, DOJ reporters Eric Tucker and Mike Balsamo, and Chicago-based reporter Amanda Seitz of the fact-check team. The result was a far more well-informed story the following day, providing essential context and new information, including the U.S. attorney defending his announcement of the votes for Trump, and that Attorney General William Barr had previously briefed the president on the case. The story also examined how the case circulated on partisan social media.

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