St. Paul, Minn. — The old axiom that people don't really get interested in a political campaign until Labor Day is ringing true again this year, at least according to the traffic numbers I've seen on our Campaign 2004 section. A generally late arrival to the party hides the effort that goes into bringing you some of the goodies we've brought you since we started on the site last August.
That's also true with election night data. The Web is emerging as the most-used resource now for election night results and a team of fine folks in MPR's New Media and Information Technology departments have been working since last April to give you the numbers and the context on Tuesday night.
Sometime between now and then, I'll give you a better tour because things aren't quite ready yet. But you deserve a little advance notice, so...well... here it is.
During the day on Tuesday, we'll be giving you access to some exit polling in Minnesota. We won't tell you what the data says in terms of winning candidates until after the polls close, but we will tell you what people are telling the people conduting the survey about why people are voting the way they're voting, and what issues are driving the electorate, at least in Minnesota.
We'll be monitoring individual precincts as best we can during the day, but we could use your help since it's utterly impossible to canvas every precinct. It would be helpful when you go to vote if you ask the poll workers how things are going and how busy it's been. That's it. Then, if you gain an interesting tidbit, just drop me a note and we'll follow up. This is especially true if you have any problems voting. But keep in mind, we can't help you solve any individual problem you have; that's for your community's election official. We simply want to know about in the event a pattern develops of election day problems, and also to inform us that everything is going smoothly.
Now, for election night. I'm sure you'll hear some announcements on the radio about what the plans are where broadcast efforts are concerned. Gary Eichten and his team will be out in full force. As for online efforts, a crack team of incredibly talented people has been writing an election returns program that will give you terrific access to the data, and the ability to analyze things a bit.
Our effort, to be honest with you, has been meant to be a first step in a program we can use in subsequent years and while I think what we've got for you is pretty neat, where you'll be able to go with it in future elections is even more substantive.
You'll be able to get all of the results from other states. Of course, we'll have the obligatory red/blue map of the U.S. We'll also break down the vote graphically by state and by county.
Of course, over the last few years we've all been kicking around the question of whether Minnesota is becoming more Republican. We've gathered up election returns in each county since 1952 for president and we'll have a graphic that hasn't yet gotten its required catchy title (although I've referred to it as "political Doppler"), that hopefully will show particular shifts in party dominance in each county over the last 52 years.
In the future, I'd like to develop this a little bit more and look at the question from a variety of different ways to better answer the question, but you'll get the idea.
You'll also have two choices of election night broadcast coverage. On the radio, we'll be providing both national coverage from National Public Radio and local coverage from Minnesota Public Radio, of course. But we recognize that depending on how things are going, you may be more interested in a national race. So you'll be able to choose what to listen to online. If you want the local coverage, you can have it. If you want just national analysis, that'll be your choice too.
We've also been kicking around the idea -- and I admit we're late in the game here -- for a small stable of young bloggers (there's that word again!). Our Matt Thueson is working with Carleton College to come up with a balanced group that has something to say. You'll find this in the Your Voice section under the direction of Interactive Editor Julia Schrenkler. And, of course, the Forum will be open for the expected avalanche of "I told you so" conversations, and Julia is always looking for substantive and informed commentaries.
Now, as I said, all of this is in development on a long-term basis. So one of the things we'd like you to do is give us constructive feedback on Tuesday night. We want to know what feature you found most interesting, and what you'd like to see in future incarnations. So we'll make a link to a feedback form that you can fill out. Just remember: be nice.
I'll be back to you with updates, as they say, as soon as they are available.
Keep in touch.