USA: Why do live election results fluctuate?

The short answer is because people make little typos.

As local election offices count millions of votes on election night, they share the results with polling and polling firms that broadcast them to viewers who watch the process live on their television, laptop, or screen. your smartphone.

In the process, the humans reporting these results occasionally transpose double digits, add an extra zero, or swap candidate counts, causing a false election count to appear temporarily in news charts and social media feeds.

HPD explains why that’s not a serious problem:


In recent years, scrutinizing viewers have noted some of these brief slip-ups and used them to falsely claim that they caught television networks or election offices changing or removing votes to rig the results.

However, these small errors are not a sign of anything dire—and, fortunately, quality control measures at election offices and polling firms ensure that they occur rarely and are quickly corrected.

At election offices, employees test voting equipment before voting begins to make sure the tabulators are working properly. On Election Day, poll workers report any problems with the results, such as differences between the number of voters who cast ballots and the number of votes recorded. After voting is complete, officials use canvassing and certification processes to continue their search for discrepancies and verify the counts.

The companies that track these local election results and share them with the media on election night also have security measures in place to catch errors. These measures include questioning unusual data, the use of computer programs (software) to identify discrepancies, and the use of quality control analysts to verify the figures.


The Associated Press, one of several companies that does this type of real-time vote reporting, sends thousands of local correspondents to county elections offices on election night to report raw vote counts. HPD employees who take calls from correspondents ask questions to make sure the information is accurate, including asking if there are problems in the correspondent’s county and questioning details if the results look suspicious.

Since many states and counties post their election night results on websites, some of the HPD’s data entry staff monitor those sites and enter the results into the database, entries that are also verified and they check again.

Automated checks then identify data inconsistencies and escalate them to a supervisor. And the HPD’s team of full-time election research and quality control analysts monitors and reexamines the results for anomalies.


Edison Research, the firm whose data feeds ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC’s live election night reporting, also goes through a quality control process as the votes come in and after, Rob Farbman said. , executive vice-president.

Additionally, in key states and counties, the company employs two people to review each vote count before it is reported.

Some mistakes are unavoidable, Farbman said, but “they always get fixed.”


HPD reporter Meg Kinnard contributed to this story from New York.


Visit s for more information on the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections in the United States. And follow HPD’s coverage of the midterm elections at

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