The vertiginous disruption of every norm and routine of how a presidential campaign unfolds will continue right down to the final hours of Election Day.
The role of traditional media as formal gatekeepers of the flow of news, as arbiters of the facts, as controllers of the schedules, has been crumbling for several cycles but today may be the day RIP will be officially assigned to The Process.
“Election Night” evokes the triumphal music of the networks and the somber voices of the anchors as each state is “called,” and it turns red or blue on a gigantic digital map. That will still happen Tuesday night. But the data and exit polling historically compiled by a consortium of the TV networks and The Associated Press and embargoed for release until the voting has ended in each state is under attack.
The Silicon Valley peer-to-peer model of eliminating the middleman that birthed ride- and home-sharing services is trying its hand at instant voting analysis. A company called Votecastr is experimenting with a mobile app that will offer real-time, minute-by-minute projections that they boast will allow everyone access to what “network executives and campaign insiders” have been privy to for far too long.
The company’s findings will be published by Slate.com, one of the very first web-based magazines. Slate.com debuted in 1996 and has been aggressively seeking to undermine the “cartel of Election Day silence.”
Information on who voted in key precincts of seven battleground states will be collected by real humans and mixed with the company’s proprietary statistical models that include very large sample pollings. The states being tracked are: Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Votecastr says it will start disseminating data when the first vote is cast in Florida and end when the last one closes in Nevada.
Writing in Slate about the experiment, senior editor Josh Voorhees warns that the data will only be able to show whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is winning any one of the seven states at that moment, not what the final result will be. He also said the specific model has never been tested on this scale. “If it works as planned, it’ll provide us with fascinating insights into what’s happening on the ground on the final day of one of the most unpredictable campaigns in recent memory,” Voorhees wrote.
Concerns about influencing the outcome of the election is what has always stopped the traditional consortia from releasing the data early. The fear has been that voters in the West who may feel the election is already over, won’t vote. That could undermine The Process and especially influence down-ballot races for Congress and state offices. Such disruption could happen Tuesday if Votecastr numbers are dispersed through social media, for example, giving the impression that Clinton has wrapped things up, so there is no need to head to the polls, or conversely that Trump is out performing expectations and could win if voters in late-poll-closing states really turned out.
And if you need another clue that the Old World election night order dictated by Manhattan-based news networks is over, the Votecastr live webcast will come to you straight from Brooklyn.