Does “calling the election” actually mean anything?

The networks have repeatedly said something to the effect of “We haven’t called Burblavovia yet.” Almost as if it makes a difference. Supposedly Trump was furious that Arizona was called earlier than he thought it should have been. What am I missing?

It looks bad. Other than that, it has no real impact.

Calling an election is essentially no different than calling tomorrow’s weather. It’s a prediction based on the evidence at hand.

Everyone wants to be the first one to call a state. Nobody wants to be wrong. The debacle in Florida in 2000 has led them to be extremely cautious in calling anything that’s not an obvious done deal, but there’s still a slight desire to be the first by having better people working on crunching the numbers and deciding what’s probably going to happen.

Yeah it is psychologically comforting/stressful for some folks, but it doesn’t actually mean doodly-squat. It’s an entirely meaningless ritual (meaningless except in the context of media ratings and attention, which of course is worth $$ ).

It has always seemed to me that, in normal times with normal candidates, once enough people called the entire election, that was when the losing candidate would concede, and the winning one would make their victory speech.

Granted, concessions have been pulled before, but that implies to me that the concession has some sort of weight to it. It may not be legally binding yet, but it’s supposed to be “the end” for all practical purposes, until the actual electoral college votes are cast.

Of course, this isn’t a normal election, and the currently losing side seems unlikely to concede, and is even putting legal weight behind that lack of concession.

So this time I agree it doesn’t mean all that much for things to be called. Though I note you can’t analyze the election prediction models until everything is called.

It is a ritual but far from meaningless. In the modern political landscape it is one of a series of important symbolic steps through which power is transferred peacefully and legitmately. The votes are counted under the full view of the media. The media calls the election. The loser concedes and gives a graceful speech. The winner also gives a graceful speech calling for unity. The nation broadly accepts the results and moves on.

It does mean something. With Bush vs Gore, they had called it for Bush in Fla, and one supposedly underlying reason for not allowing more recount is that the Justices didnt want the chaos involved in changing the election as late as the middle of December.

Bush vs Gore is one reason why they aint calling it.

Yes, exactly. It is one of the ways that, essentially, reality is accepted. The free press independently analyze the data, and when experts decide that further counting (which tends to continue some) will not change anything, then the state is called. If it is exceedingly rare for a call to be mistaken, then the people – the nation as a whole – accepts that result. And when enough states representing enough electoral votes are called, the election is called, and people (used to) accept that the declared winner is the president-elect.

And there is value in 1) having the call made at the earliest point it can reliably be made, to limit the time of uncertainty, and 2) having the call made by the press, not by a candidate announcing that they have won when there is no independent consensus.

It’s why Trump’s announcement that he’d won was met with scorn. The press called plenty of states that had not finished counting yet on Tuesday evening. But a candidate can’t just do the same thing. “I won all of those states, plus Pennsylvania and all the rest of the swing states” won’t fly, because the norm is you can’t do it yourself. It’s the role of news outlets.

It is, officially, meaningless. The media don’t decide who won the election, period. They can predict who is going to, but they have no power other than prediction. Candidates don’t win a state simply because the media “called it” for them. State certification is the only official means of winning an election.

It is an observed fact, over many years, that the people who make up “The Media” have internalized a very large sense of the importance of what they do.

It’s tiresome when they base their whole presentation on the truth of that particular point of view, but otherwise not any different than the Nurses, Doctors, Teachers, Accountants, Policeman, Plumbers, Electricians, Lawyers and Farmers that I’ve known.

Trump supporters are praying outside the Arizona Elections Center. So don’t listen to those godless commies at Fox News that called AZ for Biden. Clearly god is on Trump’s side and he’ll prevail. :roll_eyes:

To hear lot of people outside my window here in Inwood, Manhattan, I’m sure a lot of people think it does. In the end, I think it does mean something. Have the news media missed a presidential election since Truman?

Officially it doesn’t mean anything. From a news perspective, it’s extremely important. It says that Biden will be elected president with almost perfect certainty. That’s important to know.

AP has been “calling” the elections for years. Is it an “official” call? No. The official process starts with the certification of the votes in each individual municipality and works its way from there.
But what the media does is carefully analyze the number of ballots left to count and where those ballots are coming from, and puts that against the number of votes that have already been tallied to come up with an educated, data-driven, mathematical prediction. For a simplified example, if there are 100,000 outstanding ballots left to count and candidate A is up by 200,000, then there is no way, even if all of those outstanding ballots are for candidate B, that candidate B can win. There’s obviously a lot more to it than that, but it’s not just a “guess” or a “favored” thing. It’s meaningful in that it is a very likely predictor and in some cases, an absolute, based on the math.

In past elections, the GSA certified the new president-elect for transition resources based, I assume, on the media calling the election. It certainly isn’t based on any official election results, since it usually happens within a couple days of Election Day. This year, the Trump admin is refusing to do this, based on Trump’s evidenceless claims of voter fraud.


There is the formal system where the electoral votes are counted by four tellers and (gulp) the sitting vice-President announces the winner on January 6. But this formal system has never mattered, even in 1876.

We have an informal system where the winner in determined long before January 6. While state election boards have a role, the media decision desk consensus is a big part of it.

GSA is violating a long-established Democratic norm, as is — no surprise — DJT.

This is true. The general election isn’t officially decided until all states certify their counts. And we’re not there yet; several states are still accepting mail-in ballots (Illinois has the last deadline for receiving mail-in ballots which is November 17 - these ballots must be postmarked no later than November 3). Only one state has certified its results (Delaware, which did so on November 5). Five more states will be certifying their counts tomorrow (Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, and Virginia). The last state will be California which certifies its results on December 11.

The next big date will December 14, when the Electors do the actual vote. These votes will be formally counted on January 6 and that is when the presidential election is officially decided.

But I doubt anyone wants to wait until January 6 to find out who got elected President.

So half of the norm happened. Once enough media had projected a winner, Biden made his acceptance speech. But, of course, Trump won’t concede even as his legal challenges fail.

I note something new, however. Basically every big organization where people get their facts is putting up a banner saying that Biden is the projected winner. Facebook does it for everyone. YouTube and Google do it if your search or video title is election related. They even tell you that there is a system in place to make sure it is accurate. I also see it at the top of many news sites.

I now notice that, while some sites stay technically accurate and use something like “projected president-elect,” others just call Biden the president-elect. As far as most people are concerned, his win is in. Since Trump himself won’t concede, they’re doing their best to make sure people accept the results.

It may be technically meaningless in the legal sense, but it is clearly important in every other sense. It is, for the vast majority of the US, when the election’s results are in, with the rest being mere formalities (and getting more data).

On a related note, do “concessions” actually have legal meaning? I’m pretty sure that election officials don’t stop counting votes just because one side has conceded. If the final certified tally shows that the person who conceded actually won, don’t they still get the office?