NEW YORK (AP) – Voter News Service abandoned its state and national exit poll plans for Election Night, saying it could not guarantee the accuracy of the analysis which media organizations use to help explain why people voted as they did.

Paul Wong
AP PHOTO
Voter News Service troubleshooters for each state handle poll input issues at the VNS election center in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

VNS also had problems last night with a separate operation for counting the actual vote. CBS and NBC complained the votes were coming in slowly and they were relying on a backup operation provided by The Associated Press.

The company did have limited information from the exit poll surveys that gave its members guidance in projecting winners for individual races.

The exit poll failure was a major setback for VNS – a consortium consisting of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and the AP. VNS had completely rebuilt its system in response to the 2000 election, when television networks twice used its information to make wrong calls in the decisive Florida vote for the presidential election.

“We’re disappointed that VNS wasn’t able to provide this material,” said Jonathan Wolman, senior vice president of The Associated Press. “Polling place interviews provide an invaluable glimpse at voters’ mood and priorities.”

As in the past, AP was calling election winners in a process that involves an analysis of the actual vote returns, Wolman said. “Our emphasis is on accuracy and we’re confident we’ll provide a strong service tonight.”

In addition, AP reporters around the country conduct their own interviews with voters on Election Day to gather quotes to enrich their stories. This material, though not a scientific survey, helps give readers some insight into how individual voters made their decisions.

The VNS exit poll was of particular importance to broadcasters and 19 newspapers, including The New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today, that had contracted with the consortium to receive that information to report on Election Day trends.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, speaking on CNN, said he had heard some exit poll results before polls closed yesterday.

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