It was just four minutes after the polls closed that the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, congratulated Cynthia Lummis on her election as …
It was just four minutes after the polls closed that the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, congratulated Cynthia Lummis on her election as Wyoming’s next senator.
“Senator-elect Cynthia Lummis made a name for herself in the House of Representatives as a champion for the people of Wyoming and conservative values,” Young wrote. “I know she will be that same principled fighter in the Senate, and I want to extend my warmest congratulations on her victory tonight.”
In this red state, combined with Lummis’ long and successful track record in public service, her win came as no surprise. But the timing of the celebration may have raised a few eyebrows.
Young’s statement came before a single vote had been tabulated or released by county clerks across the state of Wyoming. So why did the Indiana senator feel comfortable in offering congrats?
The Associated Press — which has been accurately projecting election results for more than a century — announced immediately after the polls closed that it was calling the race for Lummis over her Democratic opponent. The news organization similarly projected the re-election of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., in the House and declared that President Donald Trump would take the state’s three electoral votes.
The AP was transparent about its methodology, noting the organization had made its call for Trump “as soon as polls closed in the state, even though election officials there had yet to release any results from Tuesday’s presidential contest.”
The AP explained it did so “after results from AP VoteCast and an analysis of early voting statistics confirmed expectations the state’s longstanding political trends in favor of Republican presidential candidates [would] hold.” (AP VoteCast is a large-scale survey of voters the organization conducts across the country, this year reaching somewhere around 140,000 voters.)
The AP effectively said aloud what just about everyone in Wyoming already knew: That Democrats Joe Biden, Merav Ben-David and Lynette Grey Bull had no chance against Republicans Trump, Lummis and Cheney. In projecting that voters in the Cowboy State had endorsed the entire GOP ticket, the AP was 100% accurate: The three Republicans each collected more than 68% of the vote, taking overwhelming victories.
In fact, it appears the AP was correct in all of the calls it made on Election Day and in the days that followed in the presidential race. And obviously, no race is actually decided until results are actually certified — a process that, in the case of the presidential race, doesn’t have to occur until the Electoral College meets in mid-December.
Still, there remains something discomfiting about pronouncing the results of a race before a single ballot has been counted.
To be clear, media outlets and pollsters put serious work, research and data behind their projections. However, at the end of the day, elections are not determined by polls or algorithms but by voters who — whether by absentee ballot or in-person — have taken the time to participate in our democratic process. It undercuts the idea that every vote matters when results are being declared before any ballots have been counted.
We have seen this year how fragile our country’s faith in our electoral process can be. Consider how claims of widespread voter fraud have gained so much traction, despite no concrete evidence coming to light so far.
While much of the current state of distrust can be attributed to the misleading rhetoric of some of our politicians, national media organizations and pollsters are not blameless. Although they correctly projected the results on Election Night, they did not in the weeks in months leading up to the election, again failing to capture the breadth of the support for President Trump.
All of this is to say that organizations like the AP would do well to show a little more patience in calling races. While we live in a society that demands information immediately, there are some things — including election results — that are worth waiting for.