Let’s do it live!
This Election Day, the public will be able to find out a little bit more about how people are voting — in real time. Through a partnership with the data firm VoteCastr and Slate, VICE News will be providing live updates on which voters are turning out, which are staying home, and where the candidates stand in the key swing states.
VICE News will have exclusive interviews with the VoteCastr team and share their turnout numbers in a live broadcast, with updates every 45 minutes from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on ViceNews.com and Facebook.
In the past, Election Day news coverage has been relatively data-free and anecdotal. Imperfect exit polls have been kept secret for fear of influencing the outcome. The TV networks and the Associated Press save their number-crunching for after polls close and votes are being tabulated.
“The networks will call the game when the game is over, but for the first time in American electoral history, the American public will get to see the game,” said VoteCastr’s Ken Strasma, chief of microtargeting for Barack Obama’s 2008 election. “We are the guys doing the play-by-play.”
VoteCastr’s model in many ways mirrors the models designed by the presidential campaigns. In 2012, the Obama campaign had droves of poll watchers deployed in competitive states monitoring turnout throughout the day. That information went back to headquarters and allowed the campaign to immediately adjust their get-out-the-vote strategy.
Likewise, VoteCastr will have 100 poll watchers in each of seven battleground states to update turnout numbers every hour throughout the day Tuesday. They will then compare those turnout numbers to their own polling and voting frequency numbers to see if turnout is exceeding or underperforming those baselines.
If turnout in the black precincts of Philadelphia is down, then that suggests bad news for Democrat Hillary Clinton unless turnout goes up later in the day. Similarly, if turnout in rural white precincts is up, that suggests good news for Republican Donald Trump.
“Every individual voter is given a turnout score, the likelihood that that voter is going to turn out, and a candidate performance score, which candidate that voter is more likely to vote for relative to the other candidate,” Strasma said. “There’s one piece of data that you need to run through, and that is total turnout at the precinct level at any given time.”
VoteCastr then combines that live tabulation with the early voting data. Since more than 30 percent of voters are expected to cast their ballots early, missing these voters could significantly alter the results.
Ultimately, this data isn’t predictive, but it does show the “score” throughout the day. Early on Election Day in 2012, the Obama data team thought they were losing Ohio but they ended up winning it. The stakes are far higher than any game and with nine-plus hours of scoring, it’s sure to be a nail-biter.