Journalists, Be Ready For A Different Kind Of Election Day

Micheline Maynard
4 min readOct 31, 2020
The digital sticker that Ann Arbor voters received

In the last days of the endless presidential campaign, I’ve been cheered to see the number of Americans who voted early.

We’re now up to more than half of the number of people who voted in the 2016 general election.

And yet, the scripts you are hearing and the stories you are reading seem oblivious to the fact that this will be a very different kind of election day.

We still hear about polls of “likely voters” that leave out the fact that the number of likely voters may not be very large.

We still hear about Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s campaigns “building up to Election Day” even though for half of voters, Election Day already took place.

We hear about expectations of long lines and complications at the polls.

Except, those long lines and complications may very well not happen.

We could wind with a relatively breezy Election Day in many places, because there are so few undecided voters and so many sent in or delivered their ballots.

To be sure, it could take time for all those ballots to be counted. And despite what Trump has said about counting all the votes on Nov. 3, it’s impossible to do so.

For one thing, time zones get in the way. You can’t declare the process over at midnight on Nov. 3 on the East Coast; that would rob counters in the Central, Mountain, Pacific Time Zones and beyond from a full day of counting.

There are a number of things that journalists and pundits have to bear in mind as they prepare for Election Day. There’s still time to incorporate them into your coverage plan.

  1. What was the early turnout? A television journalist might arrive at a polling place to find only a handful of people in line. That won’t make for great footage, but that journalist can’t go on the air and say, “turnout was light.” It’s absolutely imperative to know the number of early voters for that precinct, city or state. Have the numbers in a spreadsheet, and make them easy for staffers to access.