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AP shows itself best of class in election coverage Super Tuesday

Screenshot 2024-03-14 at 2.17.47 PM

In the run-up to Super Tuesday, The Associated Press showed why it’s at the top of the class when it comes to elections coverage.

One example is the quick, smart and accurate work of Serena Hawkins, data scientist for AP’s Decision Team. As Super Tuesday neared, the AP had an issue on its hands: how will it call races that night when it would have no VoteCast poll — but the TV networks had their exit polling, which could have put the AP at a competitive disadvantage?

That’s when Hawkins got to work. In just two weeks, she researched, developed, tested and deployed a new approach to race calling that allowed the AP to declare Donald Trump and Joe Biden winners in several states with a very small return of counted votes. Hawkins found that by looking at a state’s history of voting, it is possible to know if the first vote count updates of the night are so overwhelmingly in favor of one candidate that it’s not possible that future vote updates will change the outcome.

Put another way, if the first three or four vote updates favored Trump by an 80% to 20% margin, regardless of how many votes made up that percentage margin, what is the likelihood that lead will hold once all the votes are counted? Hawkins found a way to answer that question with confidence.

That new model, used by the AP on Super Tuesday, put AP’s race calls ahead in states where the TV networks didn’t have a poll, and only a few minutes behind in states where they did — and with no errors in its calls. This all matters because AP’s race calls are the definitive source for who has won and lost on election night, used by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, PBS Newshour, Apple News and Google search — to name a few.

Meanwhile, the AP, for the first time, was able to deliver its vote count directly to news consumers through a new immersive elections experience on APNews. That’s due to the work of the Elections Data Visualizations Team, who worked in conjunction with the Consumer Technology team, to pull off the new feature that would combine election results, race calls and analysis in one consumer-friendly platform.

This was no small undertaking. Months of design and development went into the new elections results site, which is built in part from the same election graphics and data visualizations that we sell to customers of AP’s election service.

The B2C effort was captained by development lead Linda Gorman, with team members Ryan Best, Michelle Minkoff Carlson, Chaithra Chandraiah, Shelly Cheng, Chad Day, Phil Holm, Dan Kempton, Humera Lodhi, Maya Sweedler, Pablo Barria Urenda and Robert Weston. Their efforts paid off — on the night of Super Tuesday, the recirculation rate for these pages was, in a word, stratospheric.

For all these reasons, Serena Hawkins and the Elections Data Visualizations Team are Best of the Week — First Winner.

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