Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
Over the past week, I've been going over the counties to watch in the highest profile state races. Here are links to my five posts all in once place.
Here's a reminder of the concept as you read these:
You've probably been in this position before. It's election night and with 30%, 40%, 50% of precincts reporting, the race you're watching is close. But, you have no way of telling whether the numbers look good for your candidate or not. As T.V. anchors tend to say, "We have no idea where these results are coming from!"
The best solution, of course, would be to know EXACTLY where the results are coming from. If you knew which precincts had reported and the voting histories of those precincts, you would probably be able to tell how the results were playing out. Precinct-level results, however, are hard to come by in real time on election night and, with hundreds of precincts in each state, comparing those results to past elections in real time is even more problematic.
So, let me suggest an imperfect solution. If you know, based on a comparable election, which counties should be the key swing counties, you can come to conclusions much more quickly. County election results are usually available in real time on media Web sites and any decent secretary of state's site. If you know which counties usually vote in a way that mirrors the statewide totals, you're election watching will be much better informed.
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