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2019 Excellence in Collaboration and Partnerships winner

Electionland

About the Project

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:

  • Hours-long lines across the country caused by aging machines and poorly trained poll workers, resulting in voters being turned away from the polls.
  • Third-party get out the vote organizations sending out text messages with incorrect information, pointing would-be voters to the incorrect polling locations or leading them to believe they were registered when they were not.
  • Problems across the state of Georgia – a state in the national spotlight over an intense race for governor that served as a proxy war for voting rights. ProPublica confirmed the existence of a cyber security problem, which the state had spent the day claiming did not exist. The state also saw machine malfunctions and administrative errors that hit under-resourced communities the hardest.

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.

Scott Klein accepted the 2019 award for Excellence in Collaboration and Partnerships . (Video by Justus Hawkins, ONA19 HBCU Fellow)