Here are a few simple steps taken to gather and report election data.
- Data reporters and interviewers in the field collect the results
- Multiple sources provide vote results throughout Election Day
- Data is checked for accuracy
- NBC News independently analyzes the data
- Results and projections are delivered quickly
On Election Day 2020, votes will be collected in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., for statewide races, ballot measures and all 435 House races. Interviewers also conduct in-person national and state exit polls, the only survey of real voters in the country, measuring who voted and why they made their choices. There will be approximately 4,000 interviewers working for us through the NEP to collect county- and precinct-level votes and to conduct exit polls.
Multiple sources provide vote results throughout Election Day
Data collection is done through multiple sources on Election Day, with data reporters and interviewers across the country calling in results on a timely and rolling basis all day long. Vote data is also collected through state and county websites and feeds.
Data is checked for accuracy
Vote results are rigorously checked and verified. Part of quality control involves checking that vote data is consistent across sources, and we also compare the vote to past election results to see whether the turnout looks extremely different across multiple past races. The Decision Desk vote count analysts, along with computer software, trigger quality control alerts and any votes that fail the quality control check are reviewed by senior team members.
NBC News independently analyzes the data
NBC News race projections are completely independent of other news outlets. The Decision Desk independently analyzes vote and exit poll data and uses proprietary statistical models to decide when races can be projected.
Results and projections are delivered quickly
Election Day vote data is made available as quickly as possible, though it is likely in the 2020 general election that vote reporting will be slower than in past elections due to the pandemic. Exit poll results are independently analyzed in real time, and NBC calls all races as soon as the Decision Desk is at least 99.5 percent confident in a projection.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are votes counted?
Data reporters across the country are talking to local election officials and reporting back raw vote results on a county-by-county basis from the time polls open to close and long after that. The data is supplemented with state and county vote computer feeds, when available.
What is an exit poll and why does it matter?
Using proven probability-based sampling methods, the exit poll is a survey of voters conducted as they exit their polling places. It is the only survey measure of real voters and it’s conducted at hundreds of polling places. The exit poll also includes extensive interviews with in-person early voters and telephone surveys of early and absentee voters. Edison Research is the sole provider of exit poll data to the NEP.
How does NBC ensure accuracy?
Analysts inspect results and look for irregularities or inconsistencies with past voting behavior. If data seems irregular, a rigorous quality control process is triggered to determine if results are correct.
What is the National Election Pool?
The NEP is a consortium of major news networks — ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC — that pools together resources to gather vote and exit poll data. The NEP works with the consumer research firm Edison Research to collect timely and comprehensive election data on Election Day and in the following days, weeks and months until results are certified by all states. The NEP licenses data to several news outlets, including Reuters and The New York Times, among others.
How does NBC project races?
Early on election night, analysts use exit poll data to determine if a race can be called. They continue to examine exit polls but as the night goes on, they also consider precinct- and county-level model results and county and statewide raw vote returns.
NBC News will not project a winner in a race until after the last scheduled poll closing time in that state.