Small improvement in exit poll reporting

Given the damage that early election recalls have had on voter turnout (1980, 1996, and 2000), I really wish that there were no exit polls. With 25 percent of votes being done by absentee ballots this year, the potential for mistakes is greater than ever and 2004 was bad enough with Republicans apparently not telling exit pollsters how they voted. Quarantining exit polls until 5 PM eastern is fine, and it is still hours before polls close on the East coast and six hours or so before they close on the West coast. I understand the ratings benefit from a network that can call an election quickly and the exit polls may also provide some insight into why people vote the way that they do, but the costs seem very high (just look at the election troubles in Florida which likely would have been avoided if 8,000 plus Republicans had voted in the western Panhandle). The competitive issue between the networks would be solved if none of them used exit polls.

Exit-poll data will be under lock and key Election Day to help networks avoid the Bush-Gore debacle of 2000 - and prevent bloggers from trumpeting results before the polls close.

The crucial info - which could provide an early hint if a Democratic wave is in fact under way - will be squirreled away in a windowless New York office room dubbed the "Quarantine Room," the Washington Post first reported.

A media consortium established to track polling results has set up ironclad rules to prevent leaks to news-hungry Web sites like the Drudge Report.

Only two staffers from each of the TV networks and The Associated Press will be authorized to tear through the exit-poll data at the vote vault.

Those staffers will have to surrender their cellphones, laptop computers and BlackBerrys - it's the price of admission.

And they won't be able communicate with their offices until 5 p.m. . . .


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