Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Defending the VNS

I know that, somewhere, someone has probably made this point before (and made it better than I), but I don't know why everyone feels justified in badmouthing the Voter News Service. Today, the New York Times writes that "network executives blamed the service for providing flawed exit poll data that led them to call Florida initially for Al Gore." Why do they blame the VNS? Because they supposedly got their numbers wrong.

But wait. Remember the "butterfly ballots"? Remember retirees weeping because they thought they might have voted for Pat Buchanan? Remember how many "overvotes" got thrown out because people checked off the Al Gore box, but then, for good measure, wrote his name below as well. All of those people -- call them fools if you must -- left the polls believing they had voted for Al Gore. So, when they met the VNS people standing outside, that's what they said they had done. It's not the fault of the VNS that those people were confused and, it could be argued, it's not the fault of the people, either. It's the fault of a flawed system.


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