Politics|Here’s how we call winners on election night.
We rely on The Associated Press, but in some tightly contested races, we will evaluate the A.P. race calls before declaring a winner.
In virtually every race, we rely on calls by The Associated Press, which employs a team of analysts, researchers and race callers who have a deep understanding of the states where they declare winners.
In addition to overall vote totals, race callers pay attention to county-level votes, votes by type of ballot and areas where there are ballots left to count. In some tightly contested races, The Times independently evaluates A.P. race calls before declaring a winner.
The A.P. describes its decision-making process as “aimed at determining the answer to a single question: Can the trailing candidates catch the leader?” And only when the answer is an unquestionable “no” will The A.P. call the race.
Not every news organization gets its election results from The A.P. Other election results providers used by news organizations include Edison Research and Decision Desk HQ.
These sources can have different counts on election night, depending on the speed and scope of their reporting on a particular race. The results from all providers may not match until all the votes are counted. Major news organizations supplement this data with their own analysis, which is why they may make their calls at different times.
News organizations can sometimes project a winner, even with no results reported, if the race was not closely contested or the party or candidate has a history of consistent wins in the county or state. In some cases, The A.P. also relies on the results of pre-election surveys to help make a decision. But most major news organizations, including The A.P., wait until polls are closed before calling a winner. To be clear, the news media does not decide who will take office — that’s made official when states certify their election results. But race calls are an essential part of reporting the news about an election before votes are certified.