When The Gazette print edition hits your doorstep on Nov. 4, there’s a good chance the front page will not declare a winner of the presidential election or down-ballot races.
Like most other news organizations, The Gazette strives to deliver information quickly, but accuracy is more important. Given the stakes of the election, and the likelihood not all the votes will be counted and reported by the end of the night, responsible journalists this year will not cut corners in hopes of being the first to report the results. Calling a winner and then backtracking would only contribute to skepticism about election integrity at a moment we can least afford it.
Americans should get used to waiting a few days or weeks for election outcomes. While we are accustomed to going to bed on election night or waking up the next day with a full list of results, that expectation is not consistent with modern voting patterns.
There is no more Election Day in the United States, there is a whole election season. Early ballots are already being cast in Iowa and elsewhere, a practice that was on the rise before the coronavirus pandemic and is expected to surge to unprecedented heights this year. Postal workers and election commissioners will be handling volumes they’ve never seen before.
Many ballots, perhaps enough to swing an election, still will be en route to auditors’ offices when poll workers go home on election night. In Iowa, mail ballots will be counted if they are postmarked before Election Day and received by the auditor by the following Monday. There also could be legal challenges over the validity of some ballots, which would take weeks to sort out.
Iowans can help by voting sooner than later, and by delivering completed absentee ballots to the auditor’s office or drop box instead of mailing them back (although the mail still is a safe and secure way to submit your ballot).
During the presidential nominating caucuses in February, Iowa Democrats’ reputation was shattered by the expectation of immediate results. Local organizers struggled to file results on the party’s mobile app, leading to harsh criticism from national media outlets demanding to know who won.
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Whatever mistakes Iowa Democrats made in organizing the 2020 caucuses, the fact remains that in an era of fake news and election security threats, it was irresponsible for the political and media elite to insist on immediate results. Taking the time to count votes and verify the results is more important than the hourly news cycle.
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