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How WLRN Plans To Cover The November 2020 Election

Holly Pretsky

Election Day will be here in a little more than a week but because of massive amounts of mail voting, and the human element of it all, there will likely be a bit of time before we definitively know who won the race for president — or the outcomes of some other key races.

We know there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and there’s plenty of anxiety of how things will shake out on Nov. 3 and beyond, so we put together this quick look at how we plan to cover things on Election Day (and in the days to follow).

You turn to WLRN for reporting you can trust and stories that move our South Florida community forward. Your support makes it possible. Please donate now. Thank you.

And while we’re letting you, our readers and listeners, know how we plan to handle things on that historic night, we also want to pull the curtain back to let you know a bit about how we planned our coverage and our focal points in the run up to next Tuesday.

How does WLRN decide what to cover?

We’re residents and voters just like you, so we strive to give you all a look at some of the biggest races that even our newsroom wanted to learn more about but with a keen focus on local and statewide issues.

We are turning to NPR’s nationwide coverage for things like the latest in the presidential race and devoting WLRN staff’s time to things like previewing the school board races in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the referenda in those counties, cruise-related items in Key West and a breakdown of all the statewide amendments.

Naturally, because we don’t have dozens and dozens of staffers and we’re still in a pandemic, we can't touch on everything. But we try our hardest to give a broad view and to answer key questions that voters might have. Stay tuned for more coverage of key races and results on Election Day. And speaking of…

How are you planning to cover Election Day/Night/Week?

Our staff will be focused on identifying and reporting on the latest voter turnout numbers, any issues at polling places, and we want to hear from you about what you’re seeing.

All of that will be part of a blog that we’ll be updating throughout the day and into Election Night.

As polling places begin to close at 7 p.m. we’ll have live coverage on our radio and TV airwaves and streaming via our website and app, and you’ll start to see stories from our staff about the results of key races.

We’ll also provide those updates via our social media channels, primarily through Twitter and Instagram.

In the days that follow, our staff will also be keyed in on whatever’s happening at local supervisor of elections offices across South Florida. Our goal is to provide as much information as we can about the counting of ballots, certification of results and anything else that may arise after Nov. 3.

And we’ll also have folks on standby to cover any demonstrations that could arise, and in case there are any legal challenges to the results of the election.

How will you report out winners and results?

We’ll turn to NPR and the Associated Press when it comes to calling major races. And we’ll be basing our reporting on the numbers from county elections departments and the state and then leaning on our national partners for results outside of Florida.

You may also notice some differences in the language we use compared to previous elections.

Our goal is to avoid contributing to any misconceptions or misinformation about the results of various races so instead of using language like “this candidate is ahead” or “this candidate is winning” you might hear us get a little more granular in our descriptions.

You will likely hear and see language like “this candidate has this number of votes, based on the votes that have been counted so far,” because it’s a much more fair and accurate way to report out where a race stands until things are officially counted and eventually certified by election officials.

There will likely be some exceptions, particularly in local races and on referenda and amendments. If a candidate has an overwhelming lead that their opponent or opponents likely can't catch up to, based on the remaining number of votes to be counted, we will likely declare them the “projected winner” with the note that Tuesday night’s results are still technically unofficial.

Similarly, if a ballot item seems to have clearly met the threshold for a yes or no from voters we’ll likely project that the item was approved or denied — again, based on unofficial results until everything is certified.

Ok, you’ve mentioned certification a few times. What’s that all about?

The reason many folks consider it an Election Week and not just Election Day is because no one can truly say they won a race — or say that a ballot item was approved or denied — until it’s certified.

That happens first at the county level, when the canvassing board convenes, and they have until noon Saturday, Nov. 7, to deliver the unofficial results to Florida's state department — the state elections department falls under Florida's Department of State.

From there the state's canvassing commission will meet, Nov. 17, to officially certify the state's results for multicounty, statewide and federal races.

All of the above is the schedule if things go as planned and scheduled. There's some variations if recounts are necessary or if there are any other irregularities. You can head here to see the state's full calendar and post-Election Day deadlines.

What else should I know?

That our team is human and so we might not get to everything, or at least might not get to everything right away, so please know that we’ll be trying our hardest to keep you all informed about results and all of the relevant news you — our listeners and readers — need to know.

And know that we want to hear from you in the lead up to Election Day and on Nov. 3, so reach out to us on all of our social media platforms — we’re @WLRN on Twitter and Instagram, and WLRN Public Radio and Television on Facebook. And email us at talktous@wlrnnews.org.

Lance Dixon is WLRN's digital editor. He's worked as a professional journalist in his hometown of Miami since 2013.
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