Hundreds of people gathered in Eastern Washington will play an important part in tallying votes for races around the country tonight.
During election years, the Associated Press news service hires thousands of temporary workers and stations most of them at four U.S. locations. They’ll answer phones and take information from reporters, exit-poll interviewers, stringers and others stationed near election-reporting sites around the country. Then teams of analysts, data-entry folks and bureau chiefs will use that information to declare winners in elections as soon as possible after polls close.
The largest of those four data centers is at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Spokane County. Another is in downtown Spokane. The remaining two are in New York and New Jersey.
The two locations in Spokane County employ some 350 people and will be taking election night feeds from workers in 32 states until well after midnight. They’ll play a role in calling the presidential race in those states, but also calling lesser-known down-ticket races.
By midday Tuesday, the giant phone banks are hives of activity, said Dana Bloch, AP operations manager for Spokane.
“Results will be coming in fast and furious all night,” Bloch said.
AP chose the Eastern Washington locations in part because the operation was on the West Coast and in part because the proximity to colleges made it easy to find temporary workers, Bloch said.
Before calling any race, AP employs a complicated system, which ultimately includes putting vote counts into computer programs that set off alerts if there are discrepancies or inconsistencies, according to the wire service’s website. Supervisors then intervene. Ultimately, responsibility for calling any race rests with the AP bureau chief in each state.
Bloch expressed confidence in AP’s careful reporting system and said his team was ready for what promises to be a hectic, memorable night.
“We’ve been preparing for this for a while,” he said. “We had a rehearsal on Saturday. Now it’s too late to make changes. We’re in the mode now to get it done.”
To learn more, see http://www.ap.org/media-center/elections/faqs.