ProPublica and Coalition of News Organizations Launch “Electionland” to Cover Election Problems and Help America Vote
(NEW YORK – Sept. 8, 2016) – ProPublica today announced Electionland, a national reporting initiative that will cover voting problems during the 2016 election. A coalition of organizations – including ProPublica, Google News Lab, the USA TODAY NETWORK, Univision News, First Draft, WNYC, and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York – will work together to track the voter experience across America in real time. The network’s coordinated use of innovative technology is designed to identify election administration issues as they are happening and empower local reporters to take action.
Electionland will look for problems typically experienced in voting, such as long lines, malfunctioning machines, harassing election challengers, upticks in provisional ballot use, names dropped from voter rolls and unrequired requests for photo identification, as well as any evidence of in-person voter fraud.
While American voters routinely experience problems that make it harder to vote – Arizona’s unmanageably long lines during this year’s presidential primary, for example, and the purge of 120,000 names from the voter rolls in New York – journalists have struggled to cover these issues on the day of the election. Too often the extent of voting problems is caught after polls close, when citizens’ right to vote has already been abridged and potential votes have already been lost. ProPublica, with its expertise in sharing data and in journalistic partnerships, is well positioned to change that.
Nearly 100 local news organizations have already signed up, among them a consortium of more than two dozen public radio member stations convened by WNYC, including WLRN in Miami, KERA in Dallas, WHYY in Philadelphia and KPCC in Los Angeles; Univision local television stations; and newsrooms in key jurisdictions across the country, including the USA TODAY NETWORK’s Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tallahassee Democrat and the Tennessean.
Throughout the early voting period and on Election Day, the Electionland coalition will receive real-time data on voting problems from multiple sources, including social media, Google search trends and Facebook’s Signal platform, as well as data from Election Protection, a project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which receives calls from voters around the country about voting issues.
First Draft, a coalition of social newsgathering and verification specialists, will coordinate and train a selected network of journalism school newsrooms – at University of Alabama, Arizona State University, Columbia University, University of Florida, University of Georgia, Louisiana State University, University of Memphis, University of Missouri, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ohio University, University of Oregon and Texas State University – to monitor and flag reports that emerge on social media. ProPublica editors and reporters will oversee the student journalists, who plan to use Meedan’s Check platform to organize their work, and leads will be sent to local media organizations for follow-up.
On Nov. 8, Electionland will establish a pop-up newsroom, working from facilities at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York. From this hub ProPublica will publish national stories on the state of voting, including the extension of a live blog to be launched during early voting, and updates on social media throughout Election Day.
“Most newsrooms in America are asking an important but premature question while polls are open: ‘Who’s winning?’” said Scott Klein, ProPublica Deputy Managing Editor and the project’s leader. “Electionland is an experiment that asks whether we can help empower newsrooms to cover other vitally important questions that day: How is the election itself going? Who’s voting and who’s being turned away?”
“On Election Day, newsrooms often don’t get solid information about voting problems until late in the day – if at all,” said John Keefe, senior editor for data news at WNYC and one of the project’s organizers. “WNYC and other public radio stations are excited to participate in Electionland. We hope to get strong leads into reporters’ hands earlier so they have a chance to pursue stories as they are unfolding.”
Local reporters can still sign up to participate in Electionland. Participants will receive real-time alerts about potential voting trouble spots within their coverage area. In advance of the voting period, newsrooms that sign up will also have access to reporting recipes, tip sheets and community calls on the changing voting landscape.
ProPublica today also launched Election DataBot, a new tool that monitors the campaign activity of candidates for federal office throughout the election season, aggregating information such as their filings made to the Federal Election Commission, congressional votes (for incumbents), polling data and their Google Search popularity. Reporters can subscribe to real-time notifications about the races and candidates they cover.
To learn more about Electionland and to sign up as a reporter, visit propublica.org/electionland.
To learn more about the Election DataBot and sign up, visit propublica.org/electionbot.
Support for Electionland comes from Google News Lab and Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and craigconnects.