Today is Election Day and all across the nation, people are queuing up to make their voices heard, from the storm battered Northeast to the desert West. The sheer size of our country, and the diversity of its electorate, geography and polling process makes today a huge logistical challenge, with armies of poll workers, and phalanxes of campaign volunteers getting out the vote. This organized chaos is for the most part the most pure expression of our democracy, but some choose to use it to cynically push their own political agenda by releasing false or misleading "exit poll data."
Fueled by the 24-hour news cycle and pushed hard on the web, where fact checkers seem to always be on holiday, sites like Breitbart, Drudge and others will link to unverified exit poll results that will skew hard towards the narrative the GOP campaign wants you to hear rather than today's actual results. This is done to sway voters out west, disenfranchise those who haven't cast their vote or just demoralize low information voters who will take reports at face value.
As the Washington Post reported early today, don't believe the hype.
"Given the precautions we take, the chances are infinitesimal that you'll see correct information before 5 p.m.," says Larry Rosen, president of Edison Research, which runs the exit poll that the major networks and newspapers use. It's not like the floodgates open at 5 p.m., either: "Networks are prohibited from releasing information that could be used to project the race until after polls have closed. It won't be until 7 p.m. that projections get the green light on the East Coast."
So don't buy the last load of "malarkey" of this campaign season that has seen magical tax cuts, unreleased tax returns, unbelievable marathon times and secret budget plans. This is just the final shovel full of a fact-free attempt to win the White House. The early exit polls are often leaked to skew results; not reflect actual results.