Counting votes: How US media figure out who won
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In the United States, most states don't announce official election results until weeks after Election Day. But most Americans are fairly certain they know who won from an unofficial source: the news media.
The media play a large role in not only reporting election results but figuring out who won, usually long before the last votes are counted and certified.
The United States decides who wins the White House with a state-by-state race for electors, which are awarded proportionally, based on the population in each state. In almost all states, electors are won on a winner-take all basis, and the winner needs to gain a majority of the Electoral College, or 270 electors.
The system is further decentralized below the states when it comes to counting votes. No single government authority oversees the process. Instead, officials in more than 4,000 counties, townships and parishes across the U.S. tally votes for president, Congress, governor, state legislature and a host of state and local offices.
The Associated Press will deploy more than 5,000 workers on Nov. 6 to collect vote results from government agencies and report them to news organizations _ and the public _ around the world. In all, the AP will report results for nearly 7,000 races.
Government officials get the final say on who wins elections _ Congress verifies the Electoral College votes for president and vice president, while state and county officials certify election results in their jurisdictions. But the media get the first word on election night, an important role in the democratic process of a nation that demands fast and accurate information.
Analysts at the AP and other news organizations will use several tools to determine election winners, sometimes with very few votes actually counted. In elections for Congress and local offices, analysts will rely mainly on the AP vote count to determine the winners.
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