Results should be broadcast after polls close

Campus Times
November 8, 1996

by Monica Schwarze
Editorial Director

On Tuesday, millions of Americans took the time to travel to their local polling place, fill out a ballot, and vote for the candidate they felt would best serve their country.

These individuals were not forced to vote for a particular candidate, as citizens are in some countries. Nor were they denied the right to vote because of their race, gender, education or income. They voted to celebrate the fact that America is a democracy, where the citizens have the right to freely choose the leader and the future of their nation. Unfortunately, many of them were made to feel that their votes did not matter.

Polling places across the country remain open until 8 p.m., regardless of the time zone in which they are located. Therefore, a polling place on the East Coast will close three hours before a polling place on the west coast and five hours ahead of Hawaii.

As soon as eastern polls began to close on Tuesday, newscasters began announcing the results of electoral votes to American voters across the nation. By 6 o'clock, it was already obvious that Bill Clinton had enough electoral votes to win the election. By 7 p.m., his opponent, Bob Dole, had already conceded defeat.

What message does this send to American voters? Especially in a country where every citizen has the right to vote, and their vote is supposed to count?

Of course, on Wednesday, these same newscasters who inadvertently discouraged citizens from voting by letting them know that a winner had been chosen with or without their vote, reported that voter turnout was lower than ever. They lamented the fact that Americans are growing apathetic about voting, and bemoaned a nation that was growing more and more politically lethargic. But, will they ever examine their role in low voter turnout and political cynicism?

If an individual is planning on voting for a candidate, and they hear that candidate has already won, they are certain to feel that their vote is pointless. If a registered voter turns on the 6 p.m. news and hears their favored candidate conceding defeat, they will most likely, change the channel and skip voting.

It may seem to many that not voting once the results are in is a wise choice, but in reality, it is not. A vote not only helps put a candidate in office, it sends a message to the government.

This happened in 1992, when very few Americans expected Ross Perot to win the election, but the overwhelming number of votes he received started talk about a possible third major political party. This talk has continued through Clinton's entire first term in office, and may continue throughout his second. Because so many Americans chose to send a message through their vote, a strong third political party may form in the United States by the end of the century.

This is not an issue that is limited to the 20th century. In 1888, Grover Cleveland lost the electoral vote, but, without the benefit of newscasters broadcasting this information, American voters continued to visit the polls and Cleveland won the popular vote. The message was heard, and Cleveland was elected in 1893.

Unfortunately, too many Americans are discouraged by newscasts that leak election results before the election is actually over. Not enough voters visit the polls after they know who won, and their voices are not heard.

It is up to newscasters to realize that, by announcing election results before the polls have closed, they are discouraging the full enactment of the political process and interfering with American democracy.

It is also up to American voters to realize that their vote does matter, even after the election is over.

Monica Schwarze, a senior journalism major, is editorial director of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at