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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

News outlets are shying away from trying to quickly predict elections, and are instead focusing more on explaining how the races are unfolding, executives tell Axios.

What to expect: Most news executives concede that some networks won't be able to call elections with certainty for days — or longer.

What's new:

  • Fewer prediction graphics: The New York Times said Monday that its infamous election needle will only be used this year to predict race outcomes in 3 battleground states, not the full election.
  • New polling methodology: CNN's polling director Jennifer Agiesta says that Edison Research, a firm that has for years conducted exit poll data for the networks to use to call races, has changed its methodology to include more exit interviews at polling locations during early in-person voting and to include telephone interviews with those that casted early mail-in ballots.
  • Bigger focus on vote counting: The Washington Post's director of engineering told Axios last month that it wouldn't be predicting race outcomes. Instead, it has created a new tool to track expected votes.
  • Local reporting on voting issues: NBC News has placed a focus on sending reporters to battleground states to help report out any issues with voting that could delay results. Univision is partnering with ProPublica’s Electionland to monitor and report on any issues voters might have at the polls.
  • More transparency about how races are called: The AP, which is expected to call over 7,000 races, says it will be publishing articles throughout the election explaining how and why it's calling certain races.

Why it matters: News outlets are still reeling from embarrassing mistakes last cycle.

  • Aside from many showing visible shock and dismay during the 2016 election, many journalists still recall the embarrassing mistake outlets made in 2000 when trying to call the winner of Florida.

Between the lines: Practices used in previous elections, like percent of precinct reporting, are less dependable with so many mail-in ballots.

  • Instead, networks are expected to report the percentage of expected votes that have been tallied.

The bottom line: News outlets — especially wires and TV networks with major decision desks — have experience doing this.

Go deeper

Jan 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

New Republican poll shows statistical tie in Georgia

A banner for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler hangs from an old Army truck in Madison, Ga., on Saturday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Democratic and Republican Senate candidates in Georgia are in a statistical tie heading into Tuesday's pair of runoff elections, according to a new poll conducted for a Republican super PAC.

Why it matters: In both elections, Democrats pulled ahead in early voting, putting pressure on Republicans to increase their turnout on Election Day to catch up. The tie poll suggests a jump ball in the races between Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."