Sadly, this satirical prediction made may well come true

Observers have been warning that given the unprecedented nature of this year’s election with the large numbers of people voting using mail-in ballots instead of in person on election day, previous methods of projecting results are no longer valid and should not be used even if that means the results will not be known until days later instead of on election night.

The media are on course aware of this problem but as this piece from The Onion suggests, they may not be able to withstand the pressure to call the result if they think that another network might be on the verge of doing so. In the media business where ratings is everything, the desire to be first can, sadly, overpower the desire to be right.

NEW YORK—In an effort to safeguard the democratic process during a year in which a record number of ballots will be counted after election day, top TV news outlets including CNN, MSNBC, and Fox vowed Tuesday they would not prematurely declare a winner in the presidential contest unless their ratings began to drop. “With so much uncertainty surrounding the race this time around, we simply cannot risk announcing the outcome until a candidate has decisively won the Electoral College or our viewers are growing bored enough to change the channel,” said CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who added that the election was far too important for the media to sow confusion about who had been victorious, except in a circumstance in which a network was failing to deliver the kinds of numbers its advertisers expected. “It’s our duty as members of the free press to keep our reporting as accurate as possible, and up to the moment one of our competitors draws a better audience with a too-hasty verdict on the results, that’s exactly what we’ll do. You can trust that as long as you and millions of others stay tuned in, we won’t resort to calling Florida with only 30% of precincts reporting.” At press time, members of the media clarified that they still reserved the right to gin up ratings by declaring Trump the winner and then backtracking to call it for Biden, then Trump, and then Biden again.

Because of mail-in voting, the percentage of precincts reporting is no longer a good measure of how many ballots have been counted. A better one to keep an eye on is the number of votes counted as a percentage of the total number of votes cast, including the mail-ins.


  1. Mano Singham says


    No, I had not meant to. I am not sure why that happened. I have reposted it and comments should now be possible.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Satirical prediction on the way to become true:
    I read a spoof article this mirning saying “Trump fires Dr. Fauci, replaces him with Deepak Chopra”
    This afternoon I read Trump says “Dr Fauci and the rest are idiots” and blames them for the mismanagement of the pandemic.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    Add this to the long, long list of Things I Don’t Understand About US Elections: why does this matter, even a little bit? Who gives a fuck what the networks say about the result, before the result is in? Do the networks “call it” during the Superbowl if one team looks like they’re winning at the end of the third quarter? And does that have ANY significance to the final result?

    I honestly don’t know the answer to the this question, but if the answer is anything other than “no, actually it doesn’t matter at all and has no effect whatsoever on the result” then I’m going be forced, not for the first time, to internally scream WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE???.

    Elections seem, on their face, fairly simple in principle: give everyone who qualifies a chance to vote, count the votes, when you’ve counted ALL the votes (or enough that there’s no mathematical possibility of any change), then and only then announce the winner. Up to that point, surely it’s all just pointless tedious speculation? Isn’t it?

  4. Ridana says

    Years ago, the networks would call elections based on the returns from the eastern and central time zones (i.e., east of the Mississippi River), which often had the effect of suppressing the vote in the west, even in close elections. If you thought the race was decided at 5pm before you even voted, why bother going out and voting just because the polls were open for another 3 hours? They stopped doing that, although they’ve been creeping back to it for the eastern news feeds and the internet.

    This year, with all the propaganda and practical impediments against voting from the right, seeded by 4 years of non-stop complaints since Bunko was installed, there will be howls of outrage if the networks call the Election Day race for Putin’s Dog and then have to change that to Biden as the mail-in and provisional ballots get counted. To true believers, that just means it’s as Dear Leader has been saying, the system is corrupt, they stole the election! Riot!!

    That said, “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE???” is still a legitimate question. I don’t have a good answer, but there are books on the subject. I’m too discouraged to read them.

  5. Holms says

    One problem with the rush to declare a winner is that they may make it in error… which then leads to a bit of chaos, and headlines like Was The Election Tampered With? or perhaps Deep State Confirmed! NYT Forced By Paedophile Cabal To Overturn Democratic Results. And if they call it for Trump but then amend that to Biden, you can bet the ghouls in charge of Fox and the Republican Party will campaign on this for years to come.

  6. jrkrideau says

    @ 4 sonofrojblake
    See Ridana@4 for the answer.

    I am not sure if the law still exists but Canada hah/has a law about the media predicting results until the polls closed in British Columbia.

    Here is a snapshot of our timezones
    Newfoundland Daylight Time
    Newfoundland (GMT-2:30)
    11:11 p.m.
    Atlantic Daylight Time
    Halifax, NS (GMT-3)
    9:11 p.m.
    Central Daylight Time
    Winnipeg (GMT-5)
    8:11 p.m.
    Central Standard Time
    Regina (GMT-6)
    8:11 p.m.
    Mountain Daylight Time
    Edmonton (GMT-6)
    7:11 p.m.
    Pacific Daylight Time
    Vancouver (GMT-7)

  7. fentex says

    In New Zealand it’s illegal, from 12am to 7pm on election, to do anything that can construed as campaigniing -- the day is reserved for the civil act of voting.

    And no one can report news that doesn’t exist -- no information is released about votes until after the polls close and the counting proceeds.

    Usually this means we don’t know the result until after midnight, as elections are usually quite close with minor party results mattering. Only occassionaly does it take a bit longer when all the mailed in remote and special votes still trickling in still need to be finally tallied as they might make difference.

    But this time the writing was on the wall by 9pm -- so emphatic was Labours support.

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