Teen Editorial: Election Coverage Problems

As I was sitting in front of my computer last night, election night, wondering what to write this post on, it came to me: Calling the election. For those off you who don’t follow politics, this is a practice where news agencies (mostly NBC and the AP) comment on the elections and predict (call) the winner. Usually, they call the election with less than half of the popular vote actually counted, based on how they think the uncounted votes will go. While I respect the desire to report the most current news, I think that they way that election calling is handled contradicts the foundational principles of American democracy.

The biggest problem I have with this process is that the news agencies calling the election don’t like to admit that they are guessing. They come out with statements like “NBC has called the election for President Obama” (KING 5 NewsAlert text, Nov. 6, 2012). What they meant was that NBC predicted that Obama would win, if the half of the popular vote that had been counted represented the electoral vote. Most Americans, however, as evidenced by the fireworks that started going off immediately afterwords, interpret this as a declaration of victory.

The second problem I have with this is that our system claims to be one in which the president is elected by a majority of all of the voters, which is translated into the electoral college. But when the president wins with 55% of the votes counted, we have defeated that system and created one where the only votes that count are those of the inhabitants of the east coast. This means that the inhabitants of western states, particularly Hawai’i and Alaska, are less inclined to vote.

This is my final problem with our current system. All of the emphasis is presidential, which causes people to trivialize and ignore local issues, like Referendums 74 and 1240. In states like Hawai’i and Alaska, there is reduced voter turn out on local issues because the presidency has been decided and so fewer people decide to vote.

I think that we need to ban calling the election, and only report the actual progress of the election. News sites should not predict things on election night. Instead, they should report the votes as they are. They should not report predicted electoral votes and they should not predict the outcomes of the popular vote. They should allow the results to break as they will, so that voting in late states will not be affected.

–Aidan, 17, Teen Center Adviser

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