Network exit polls exposed

Network exit polls exposed

By Victoria Collier

By Victoria Collier

Independent journalist

Editor’s Note–This is part four of an interview conducted last May by Victoria Collier, writing for The Asheville Global Report. She spoke with the director of Voter News Service, the network-owned group that counts the presidential vote. Collier asked about methods and exit polling.

Collier: Okay, so AP has its own setup, and I know that they have, I believe, for a while, but yet they’re also part of VNS.

Headline: That’s true. They have different needs than the rest of the members. The Associated Press has to report on every single election, down to Dog Catcher, for its readership in. . .in small towns across the country. The television networks report at the statewide level.

Collier: And you’re just reporting the top of the ticket?

Headline: Right.

Collier: Okay, but aside from AP, the networks are getting the numbers from you?

Headline: With. . . . with the caveat that more and more Websites are out there and uh. . . the members are interested in getting as much information as they can, so they’re looking at Websites as well as our numbers, as well as AP numbers.

Collier: I’m just trying to understand how it works, that’s all— so they’re calling in vote totals from the county, but then they’re also giving you exit poll results?

Headline: We conduct the exit polls and. . . uh. . . . our exit poll people report their results to us several times during the course of an election day. Uh. . . we evaluate that information and provide our recommendations, or our interpretations, if you will, our predictions, if you want to use that word, for the members. The members are also conducting their own polls, and using their own sources, and checking our information against what they have, and may or may not call a particular election based on our information or based on a combination of our information and theirs, or, if they think we’re wrong, they go with their information.

Collier: Wow, this is strangely . . . complex, and really . . . casual. And yet—such accuracy! Your numbers have often been nearly 100 percent perfect. Okay, then this is my final question—

Headline: I don’t mean to be, difficult, or any of this, I’m uh. . . uh . . . . I’m . . . I’m really flabbergasted at the uh. . . at the nature of the allegations that have floated around there, and whatever it was that uh, Votescam, uh. . . undertook to prove, because it’s so far off base that it’s, just. . . it’s just hard for me to fathom.

Collier: Well, maybe you should read the book, and then it probably wouldn’t be so shocking. It’s really not shocking. You understand that not everybody trusts the major media. That shouldn’t shock you. If it does—

Headline: I understand that, but I’ve worked in major media for 35 years, and so I have a. . . I have a strong faith in what it is we do and why.

Collier: Well, that’s good. But if anything, take the opportunity to dispel some of the fears that people—

Headline: Well, that’s why I’m talking to you.

Collier: Right, so my question is, if there is nothing to worry about, is it not possible for somebody to watch the VNS process on election night? To follow the vote from wherever, if it’s in New York, if it’s in New Jersey—

Headline: If it’s in New York City, then we get it from the police department. Because they’re the official vote counters in New York.

Collier: Okay, so. . . see, it can be confusing, because you’re getting your results from so many different places, through so many different people—

Headline: It’s not confusing.

Collier: For an outsider, I mean.

Headline: It shouldn’t be confusing. We get the vote totals from whatever the official, kind of the easiest official source

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there is to get them from, which is generally at the county level.

Collier: Right, there’s not just one, across-the-board standard procedure.

Headline: Well, that’s because we live in a democracy, and there are 50 states and there are several thousand counties, and every one of them has its own way of doing things.

Collier: Yes, but it seems that it’s particularly complex with the vote. I mean we all do things nationally; for example, we all pay our taxes, and we pretty much have to do it in the same way on the same day, so you know, we manage to organize when we have to on a national level. If we really wanted to, we could organize the election process, and we should. All I’m asking is–could I, or could somebody else from an independent newspaper, or even a citizen organization, follow the vote through its processes, and then, wherever VNS is located, follow it up into wherever it gets tabulated and your people are doing their thing on election night, and could we videotape the process? And it really doesn’t have to do with any ridiculous allegations, it just seems that every part of the vote counting process should be open to the public. That’s all.

Headline: I’m, I’m uh. . . First of all, I can’t make the commitment, because that’s something that would have to be approved by the members. And I have no way of knowing what the members . . uh. . . would be willing to go along with.

Collier: Well, what’s the problem? What would be the problem?

Headline: There, there is no problem. This is a. . . we’re private organizations, and you know, uh. . . uh. . . Mobil Oil doesn’t invite people in to see how they send out credit card bills.

Collier: But of course, this is different. This is the national vote count.

Headline: It isn’t different.

Collier: It is different.

Headline: It’s not. The official vote count is conducted at the. . uh, at the city, state, uh. . . county and state level, and nationally. Well, actually, not nationally, it’s all done at the state level, and, uh. . . and that’s the official vote. We’re a bunch of reporters who have developed methods of speeding up the process to report more quickly. And that’s. . . that’s really what we’re . . . what we’re about. And we. . . uh, regardless of what we report, the official results are the official results. And if we’re wrong, we’re wrong. We’ve been wrong, uh, occasionally, not very often. And so—

Collier: You’ve been—

Headline: And so there’s little . . . there’s little appetite to, to open up a process that’s. . . that’s basically a–a–a private process.

Collier: It’s a private process? Well, I’m telling you, this secrecy. . . this leads to the incredible allegations that you don’t understand.

Headline: Well, if–if, for some reason, there was a reason for those allegations, if–if–if it was. . . if there was any sense that we deliberately miscalled elections, uh. . .

Collier: Well, there is a sense.

Headline: Uh. . . or tried in any way to influence the actual outcome, then I’d, then I’d have some sympathy for this concern of yours.

Collier: So you’re basically saying that. . . that we’ll just have to trust you, but you’re not going to show us anything that you do?

Headline: There’s . . . you know, what, what —

Collier: Listen, vote fraud is not some insane concept. I mean, it’s pretty common.

Headline: I absolutely agree with you, but what I’m telling you—

Collier: So it’s understandable to want to watch every single part of the process.

Headline: But what I’m saying is —

Collier: Why is that so difficult?

Headline: What I’m saying is that we are not the official vote count! If there’s vote fraud, then you go to the state or the county or the city where it exists. All we do is report results.

Collier: Okay, so then take the Ohio situation, one of the rare instances where anyone was paying attention to the vote count. If they got the wrong numbers from VNS, and they haven’t been able to get the right results from the county, then yes, it’s definitely a problem with the county, but it’s also a problem with VNS.

Headline: What Ohio problem?

Collier: The Buchanan supporters who—

Headline: Oh, you mean the Iowa problem.

Collier: Oh, yes. I’m sorry, the Iowa problem.

Headline: Or whatever that was. . . A non problem. . .

Collier: (pause) . . .It’s a non-problem?

Headline: Yeah. And I. . . I need to do some research before I address that at any particular length.

Collier: Why do you call it a non-problem?

Headline: Because it was. . . allegations that were made in the political interest of the Buchanan folks. And they had nothing to do with reality.

Collier: Nothing to do with reality?

Headline: Yes.

Collier: Why? . . . I mean, I’m sorry, but that’s a strong statement. I just want to know what makes you say it.

Headline: Because. . . there was no basis for the accusations that were made. No basis in fact.

Collier: But I thought that you didn’t. . . that you had never heard of those allegations before.

Headline: No, I didn’t say that.

Collier: Okay. You just seemed to be unfamiliar with it, so why—

Headline: I’m vaguely familiar with it.

Collier: Well, then, how can you say it has no basis in fact if you’re only vaguely familiar with it? That’s a strange thing to say.

(To be continued)

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