Yes, you desperately want some indicator of where things are going. Maybe you’re checking the weather forecast in the Philly suburbs to try and predict whether the Democratic base might be depressed in the Senate race. Perhaps you’re studying the early-voting statistics in northern Virginia to get a read on the congressional races there.
There is no news until the polls close.
Every year, I make this point, and every year, it’s necessary. “I’m hearing there are long voting lines in El Paso,” some radio host will tweet. “Traffic jams in Marshall County, Iowa,” your cousin will tell you.
I even wrote a song about this in 2020. Here’s a sample:
It’s a great day to go for a hike, Or go to the muni course and play nine holes. Sharpen your chainsaw. Tune up your bike. Clean your garage till they close the polls. Because there’s no news until the polls close. We’ve all got guesses, but nobody knows, You won’t learn a thing from watching those shows, Because there’s no news until the polls close.
Why do I harp on this every Election Day? In part, it’s because I lived through Election Day 2004. Back then, the Drudge Report, which was at the time a media leviathan that today has no equal, reported on leaked exit polls. What they told us was that John Kerry was beating George W. Bush.
Drudge was the one to publish them, but politicos high and low believed that they gave us new information.
Check out this L.A. Times post-mortem:
“The 7-Hour Presidency of JFK2″ was the ironic day-after headline on Slate’s Web log called “kausfiles.” The headline referred to the period of time on Tuesday when raw exit poll numbers favoring Kerry were flying through newsrooms and around the Internet. Such data caused Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to become so despondent at one point Tuesday afternoon that she e-mailed her mother: “All is lost.” Similarly, respected election watchers John Zogby and Frank Luntz declared Bush defeated before the sun had set on Washington. “I thought we captured a trend, but apparently that result didn’t materialize,” Zogby said in a statement posted Wednesday on his website.”
This is why I typically tell people to play golf or do chores on Election Day, tuning in when polls close. For this year’s purposes, that’s 7 p.m. in New Hampshire, Virginia, Georgia, and most of Florida.
Until then, find something to do other than try to read the tea leaves.