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2021 Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling, Large Newsroom finalist

POLITICO’s 2020 Election Experience

About the Project

For a successful 2020 election experience, we knew we needed to craft fast pages that oriented the reader to what would likely be a very drawn out election week rife with misinformation.

Here’s how we did it:

– When it came to swing states where we expected slower mail-in counts, we knew the presidential result could drag on, so we developed our “”Ways to Win” tracker informed by real-time results. Using this tool, readers could play out various result scenarios, state by state. With each selection, our simulator told readers how many paths to victory remained for Trump and Biden. This innovative game-like feature was addictive for readers, evidenced by the screenshots on social media.

– We knew mail-in voting would change the night, so we compiled mail-in ballot deadlines and advance vote-count timeframes for every state. This ran alongside results to help readers understand when to expect big shifts in vote tallies.

– Readers need key takeaways that are easy to parse, especially during an unprecedented presidential election in a pandemic. Our answer: The Big Context Module. This module appeared atop all of our results pages, with reporters writing takeaways for key races in real time.

– Straightforward maps and data-viz made clear distinctions between finalized and in-progress races, and highlighted “expected vote percentage” rather than the traditional number of precincts reporting — a stat rendered less useful by mail-in voting.

– More than 200 results pages in our elections rig displayed filtered versions of our ongoing reporter live chat, highlighting only the analysis on races or geographies the reader was currently viewing. This paired POLITICO’s expertise with live election results, helping readers to easily digest what the results meant – and what they didn’t mean – for the regions and races they cared about most.

– Trends matter. Our “Key ballot measures” page became a go-to resource for tracking similarly-themed ballot measures, like whether states should establish paid family and medical leave or marijuana should be legalized, across the 50 states, distilling major policy movements stemming from local jurisdictions.

– Not all race calls are alike. To better understand media calls, the team built a “Presidential calls tracker” that showed where the major news organizations were in consensus about state-by-state Presidential race calls — and where there was the sharpest disagreement.

– Politico.com is our front door. Results needed to be clear, comprehensive, timely and navigable Our custom homepage top bar was curated 24/7 to orient readers to the status of hundreds of race results across the country.This included balance of power bars showing progress on the race for the presidency and control of the House and Senate. A new feature: the critical “What We Know, and What We Don’t Know” section, quickly and succinctly relayed to readers major analysis and developments but almost more notably it also transparently stated what we couldn’t yet conclude, or debunked statements as not true or too soon to say.