A peek at network exit polling by Voter News Service

A peek at network exit polling by Voter News Service

By Victoria Collier

By Victoria Collier

Independent Journalist

Last May, Victoria Collier, working as a writer for The Asheville Global Report, interviewed the head of Voter News Service, the network-owned consortium that counts the votes in the presidential election.

This is the second part of that interview. Collier had asked Bill Headline, CEO of Voter News Service, about exit polling. He said sample precincts are used.

COLLIER: Do you use the same precincts in each election?



HEADLINE: We—we—we, we sample them. This is something that the statisticians understand better than I do.

COLLIER: Really? What’s your position?

HEADLINE: I run the place.

COLLIER: You’re the president?

HEADLINE: No, I’m executive director.

COLLIER: Executive director. Okay, I don’t want to quote you incorrectly. Spell your name?

HEADLINE: Bill Headline. H-E-A-D-L-I-N-E.

COLLIER: Okay. Is Robert Flaherty still the president?


COLLIER: Not anymore?

HEADLINE: He never was. He might’ve been at NES (News Election Service). I don’t know what those titles

Continued on page 2

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were. He is a former executive director.

COLLIER: Who’s the president now?

HEADLINE: There isn’t one.

COLLIER: Oh, so you’re top of the line then?

HEADLINE: (laughs) I like to think so.

COLLIER: How long have you been working with VNS?

HEADLINE: I’ve been at this shop a little over two years.

(Explains the name changed from NES to VNS in 1993)

COLLIER: So you only do exit polls, you don’t do entrance polls?

HEADLINE: Well, entrance polls, uh…uh…they’ve been used occasionally when it’s difficult for whatever reasons to exit poll. But the preference is to do exit polls.

COLLIER: Okay. So then in the upcoming election, would it be possible to…well, would it be possible for me, for example, to take part in the exit polling?

HEADLINE: (long pause) Um…if…if there was a…a…a sample precinct in uh…in your area, and it made sense to hire you to..to do that, it’s…it’s theoretically possible. I-I-I must tell you that, uh…uh…it would not be something that we would want to do, because what you try to do in exit polling, in any polling, is to have the process as pure as you can, and uh…the purity in, uh…in this case…has to do with someone who has uh…uh…only kind of a general interest in doing it. You’re…I would not want to hire you because you’ve…you or your organization have been antagonists for reasons that I don’t understand, uh…and,uh…and,uh…

COLLIER: I don’t have an organization. Actually I’m not even on staff at The Global Report, I just—

HEADLINE: Well, you represent yourself as being from The Global Report.

COLLIER: I’m writing for The Global Report. Actually, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to speak to anybody if I didn’t have some kind of organization, either a newspaper or something else behind me.


COLLIER: That’s all. And I think, well, isn’t that the criteria for working for the exit polls?

HEADLINE: Well, uh…generally speaking, it’s nice to have some polling experience, but, uh…but that’s not absolutely necessary. We recruit people who have an interest in doing the job, and will rehearse according to our directions and follow the directions that are part of the polling package. And certainly you…uh…you might well qualify.

COLLIER: Well, listen, I am not antagonistic. And I certainly hope I haven’t been in this telephone call. I’m just interested in the voting procedure, and I’m…you know, I’m just a politically active person.


COLLIER: I’m just interested in it. So I don’t see how I wouldn’t qualify. And I really would enjoy doing it. And it’s not that I’m unaware of the problems that certain people have had with your organization, but I’m willing to look at everything unbiasedly. I just want to see how it runs.

HEADLINE: Right, right…

COLLIER: So, how would I go about doing this?

HEADLINE: Drop me a line.

COLLIER: Well, I am. I’m dropping you a line. This is the line.

HEADLINE: Okay. Okay.

COLLIER: So, what’s the next step?

HEADLINE: Uh…uh, if…if you’ll drop me a line, I’ll get it into the hands of the people who do the recruiting, and uh…and, we’ll see where it goes from there. And I’m, I’m willing to pass that along without any…without any comments or restrictions.

COLLIER: Okay. I’m glad I’m speaking to you, because I really did want to speak to somebody, and I know that Ms. Shapiro isn’t in today, and I did have a question. I mean, if you’re concerned about the antagonism, then it’s a good opportunity to clear up some of the—

HEADLINE: Well, she had had a conversation with somebody from The Global Report the other day that was less than satisfactory. I guess in every respect.

COLLIER: I know.

HEADLINE:So she’s a little cautious about, about—

COLLIER: I think what it was, was that she (the GR reporter) had asked if there was a citizen oversight group for VNS, and Ms. Shapiro said she didn’t want to “get into it.” Then I think that there was an accusation that Ms. Shapiro was being evasive. And, you know, that wasn’t necessary, I’m sure that there is an answer—and there is. The answer is; No, there isn’t a citizen group. And that would have been sufficient.

(Continued next week)

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