A day after he took to Twitter last week to question the vote-count in the Virginia attorney general race, an email from a top state official popped into David Wasserman’s inbox. Wasserman, a political analyst with encyclopedic knowledge of Virginia’s voting patterns, figured he was in for a tirade. In the aftermath of the Nov. 5 election, he had been combing through the state’s ballot count and posting Twitter messages about problems and discrepancies. “I was expecting them to say, ‘Stop denigrating our electoral process.’ Instead they said, ‘I want to thank you for the public service you’re doing’,” Wasserman, the House Editor at the Washington-based nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said in an interview. Virginia’s cliffhanger of an attorney general’s race is the first in which Twitter, the micro-blogging social media platform, has played a prominent part in the vote certification, and it may offer a model for how close elections play out in the age of social networking.
Conceived seven years ago as a web-enabled conveyor of chirp-like chatter in 140 characters or less, Twitter has become an indispensable resource in Virginia for campaign operatives, local officials, journalists and election watchers to trade information and track data to help ensure ballots are being properly tabulated in the still-undeclared race.
Democrat Mark R. Herring Tuesday night took a 163-vote lead in the battle to become the state’s chief law enforcement official, after local officials completed tallies they will give to the state for certification. The preliminary count on election night and into the next day showed varying leads for the Republican candidate, Mark Obenshain. The closeness of the race in which 2.2 million ballots were cast will likely lead to a recount.
Wasserman, 29, who describes himself as a “quant-politics- data-nerd,” was one of several analysts who used Twitter to crowdsource the vote-count in real time. Their posted messages were the first to chronicle a set of irregularities that, once scrurinized, swayed the vote count.