Major news outlets have the power to impact the public’s perception of the US 2020 presidential election results on Nov. 3.
Many states can’t start counting mail-in ballots until Election Day, and with more people than ever voting by mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it may take weeks to count them. Whether former Vice President Joe Biden or President Donald Trump wins could come down to a few states, and if news outlets call the results prematurely, it could have serious consequences, causing confusion, doubt in the democratic process, and even unrest.
That’s why we’re calling on Global Citizens to ask prominent newsrooms around the country to hold off on calling the election until every vote is counted. As part of our Just Vote campaign, we’re asking executives at ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, FOX News, CNN, and more to not rush to declare a winner on election night based on projections.
More than 72 million mail-in ballots have been requested for the Nov. 3 election. It’s predicted that more Republicans will vote in person while Democrats will be more likely to vote by mail, which suggests that projections made on election night may not necessarily represent the American public’s final decision.
News outlets usually rely on exit polls, sample precincts, and models based on actual results to call elections, but with fewer people voting in person, this information may be limited. Counting mail-in ballots is a time-consuming process, and as result, it’s unlikely that there will be accurate data on election night, unlike past elections.
If news outlets call a winner too soon, it could cast doubt on the election and spark confusion, fear, and anger amongst an already divided public. A wrongly called election could have massive consequences for the world. The US is the largest donor of foreign aid and has the largest economy, and the outcome of the election could directly impact millions of people.
There are several efforts asking news outlets to educate their audiences on the unique circumstances of the election, explain that the process could take longer than usual, and account for the fact that it may be unreasonable to expect a decision on Nov. 3.
The bipartisan group National Council on Election Integrity, launched the "Count Every Vote," campaign on Oct. 7 to ensure that every vote is counted and to help restore confidence in the American electoral system.
The National Task Force on Election Crises, another bipartisan group, also recently issued a letter to several major news outlets demanding full transparency on election result coverage, according to the Hill.
"This period of uncertainty will add further pressure to an already strained system and allow bad actors to attempt to undermine our democratic process," the letter said.
Experts say American voters will have more trust in the democratic process if they understand how the media will report on the election. Full participation in US democracy is key to ensuring citizens’ voices are heard and they can support policies to achieve a more equitable world.
The Associated Press and NBC News have both committed to calling the election race accurately, according to the Hill. Now Global Citizens have a chance to get even more news outlets on board.
Go here to take action.