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Why networks are reporting different Electoral College totals for Biden and Trump?

  • Published at 02:08 am November 6th, 2020
White House US Election
Journalists continue to wait for news on the final results of the 2020 US presidential election at the White House, in Washington on November 5, 2020 Reuters

Results in Nevada, Alaska, Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania have not been finalized

The prolonged race for US presidency has perplexed some channel-flippers.

Fox News on Thursday shows Joe Biden has 264 electoral-college votes of the 270 needed to win, while Donald Trump lags behind with 214. But CNN shows Biden has 253, while Trump has one fewer vote, at 213.

What's behind the discrepancy?

Some networks are using different polling data to make conclusions about which states are being won by each candidate.

CBS, CNN, ABC and NBC (along with its cable sibling MSNBC) are members of the National Election Pool, a consortium using data from Edison Research.  

But the Associated Press, a primary source for PBS, NPR and many major newspapers including USA TODAY, has its own VoteCast system.  

Fox News has its own voting analysis system, based partly on AP data, that's used for its own projections.

Both say they've adjusted for the much larger number of absentee mail-in votes.


 Also read: Which states could tip US election and when will they report results?


VoteCast was launched for the 2018 midterm elections. It collects data from a random sample of registered voters, with the help of mail, landline and cellphones and online methods, to conduct "massive" online polls.  

The National Election Pool surveys voters at polls along with telephone surveys of absentee and mail-in voters.

Fox projected that Biden would win Arizona's 11 electoral votes at 11:20 pm EST Tuesday, with only 73% of votes counted. That made the Trump campaign absolutely livid and a rare on-air appearance by Arnon Mishkin, who leads Fox's decision desk, who defended its call.  

AP backed Fox's Arizona call a few hours later, which was reported by USA TODAY.

CNN has tallied one fewer electoral college vote for Trump than other agencies because it hasn't called Maine's 2nd congressional district. (Maine and Nebraska are the only states where electoral votes can be split based on outcomes in separate districts; other states are winner take all.)


Also read: Facebook removes pro-Trump group for false election claims and some members calling for violence


Thursday, AP said it will continue monitoring Arizona results, where Biden holds a 68,000-vote lead, but said the most of the remaining 450, 000 votes that are yet to be tallied, are in Democratic-leaning Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and makes up 60% of the state's population, which informed its projection.

The Arizona count: In latest batch, Trump gets share of votes he would need to reclaim Arizona. But next rounds of ballots challenges his lead.

But results in Nevada, Alaska, Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, which has 20 electoral votes, have also not been finalized.

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