WNYC and ProPublica join collaboration to monitor, report on voter access

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WNYC, ProPublica, Google News Lab and a broad coalition of news organizations announced Thursday a reporting initiative to track and report on voter experiences throughout the U.S. in the upcoming election.

“Most newsrooms in America are asking an important but premature question while polls are open: ‘Who’s winning?’” said Scott Klein, ProPublica deputy managing editor and the project’s leader, in a press release. “Electionland is an experiment that asks whether we can help empower newsrooms to cover other vitally important questions that day: How is the election itself going? Who’s voting and who’s being turned away?”

The goal for Electionland is to provide story leads to local reporters that help them stay on top of problems that voters encounter at their local polling places such as long lines, malfunctioning machines, dropped names from voter rolls. The tips will be shared in real time as they occur, not after voting in the Nov. 8 election is complete.

The group will pull together multiple sources, including social media, Google search trends and information gathered by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which takes calls from voters around the country about problems at the polls. ProPublica also announced its new Election DataBot, which provides local reporters with possible stories leads on their local federal elections.

New York’s WNYC is leading a group of more than two dozen public radio stations that have already signed up to participate, including WLRN in Miami, KERA in Dallas, WHYY in Philadelphia and KPCC in Los Angeles.

“On Election Day, newsrooms often don’t get solid information about voting problems until late in the day — if at all,” said John Keefe, senior editor for data news at WNYC, in the release. “WNYC and other public radio stations are excited to participate in Electionland. We hope to get strong leads into reporters’ hands earlier so they have a chance to pursue stories as they are unfolding.”

Commercial media, including local Univision television stations and USA Today Network papers such as the Arizona Republic, Des Moines Register, Indianapolis Star and others, will also participate.

First Draft, a nonprofit that helps raise awareness of newsgathering and verification on social media, will provide training to journalism students at numerous universities for the Electionland initiative.

Reporters who sign up to participate in the project get real-time alerts of potential voting issues in their area. Prior to election day, newsrooms that sign up will gain access to additional reporting resources. There is no cost to join the reporting project.