Twenty years ago, my first job was as a News Aide at The Washington Post. On election night 1994 I was given a telephone and sent on my way to the D.C. Board of Elections (DCBOE). Upon arrival at the DCBOE, I plugged my phone into a jack in the wall in a room set up for reporters and once polls closed about every 30 minutes to an hour someone from the BOE would bring those of us in the room a stack of green bar paper with precinct results listed and I would call in results to then-Metro Editor Joann Armao. Sometime around midnight, with votes still waiting to be counted, but the outcome clear and a home delivery deadline looming, Armao called the race for Democrat Marion Barry who was making a comeback following time spent in prison. It was closer to 2 a.m. by the time I could unplug my phone and take the last stack of green bar paper home with me for analysis in the morning. A lot sure has changed in the past 20 years, but has the instant gratification of social media and the web made the public’s and media’s expectations for election night unrealistic? Do elections officials on social media see it as a burden or a cost-effective way to stay up-to-the-minute with what’s going on at the polls and provide useful information to voters?
“It’s extremely important—Twitter especially,” said Brian Newby, Johnson County, Kansas clerk and author of the Election Diary blog. “I’ve gone from thinking Twitter was essentially useless (2008) to vital, particularly as a monitoring tool. Newby noted that social media allows his office to monitor legislative activity on elections, what people are experiencing in the days leading to an election, their experiences with advance voting (such as a ballot not received), and then on election day at the polls.
“It lets us be much more responsive to issues because we hear about them right away. Plus, Twitter especially is central to our connector approach to outreach,” Newby said. “We don’t have an outreach budget ($0), so our approach is to get information to connectors and influential who, in turn, can pivot and get it out to their following. Twitter is great for that.”
According to a Pew study, as of September 2013 73 percent of adults over the age of 18 who are online are on social networking sites. Facebook of course is the granddaddy with 71 percent of online adults having a Facebook account. Only 18 percent of online adults are on Twitter and 17 percent use Instagram.
Full Article: electionlineWeekly.