Electionland was an innovative, large-scale collaborative reporting project led by ProPublica that covered voting access, cybersecurity and election integrity in the 2018 midterm elections. Unlike most election coverage, which focuses on the outcome of the vote, Electionland covered voting itself – the most central element of our democracy. It documented, nationally and in real time, impediments that can prevent people from being able to cast a ballot, such as long lines, harassment at the polls, confusion about polling locations, provisional ballots, voter ID issues, ballot design problems, language barriers and disruption caused by cybersecurity incidents. In order to cover such a huge and varied event, ProPublica gathered a coalition of more than 120 local and national newsrooms around the country and provided participant reporters with a deep well of data that included thousands of real-time tips and leads about problems happening at polling locations in their area during early voting and on Election Day.
About 100 journalists worked in a pop-up newsroom at the Newmark Journalism School at CUNY in midtown Manhattan on Election Day, helping make sense of the thousands of tips coming in real time and distributing those tips to local reporters. A team of about 12 reporters filed stories of national import. In both the run-up to Election Day and on the day itself, Electionland published stories as varied as:
In all, more than 230 stories were produced as part of the project. More than 100 of them were the result of tips and story leads provided to partner newsrooms. But an unseen benefit of Electionland are the dozens of stories our journalists do not cover. As with any breaking news event, Election Day presents hundreds of tips that appear to be problems, but ultimately are exaggerations or normal hiccups. Giving these issues unnecessary attention can lead to more confusion or anger on the part of voters. With help from a bipartisan panel of experts, both in the room and on call across the country, we were able to make wise assessments on what to cover, reserving reporter time and energy for crucial stories that would impact voter experience.