Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Election Day and Media Polls

Today is election day in the City of Santa Fe. Its the most exciting and exhausting day for a candidate. Up to a year of more of work and giving of yourself emotionally and physically culminates on a day that starts before dawn and ends late into the night, and sometimes early into the next morning. For races which are more localized and do not merit a poll paid for by the media the day starts out with much optimism. For those whom an opponent has been predeclared the winner by a media poll you struggle to convince yourself and your supporters that the poll can be wrong. You tell your supporters that polls don't vote people do. You remind them of the last time a poll declared a winner and it was wrong.

For the winner of the poll numbers you use that poll to continue the momentum. You remind your supporters that it isn't over till its over and the race could still be lost if it is taken for granted. The worst poll of all is the one that a newspaper or television station puts out on the Sunday before the election. In the mayors race it seems like each election at least one of the losing(in the polls) candidates has a rally scheduled for that Sunday. I attended one such rally on Sunday and it was well attended but you could still sense the frustration in the air. The candidate did his best to forge ahead but you feel his pain. Mayor Delgado talked about how he was behind in the polls when he won his first race for mayor. It helped and elicited huge cheers.

Sometimes I wonder whether polls released so close to the election unfairly influence race outcomes. As we have all witnessed polls can be skewed by demographics and other factors. We want to believe that pollsters and media outlets want fair and accurate information but is this always the case?

Exit polls on election day are really the most unreliable and potentially damaging. If you see that exit polls show your candidate way ahead do you say to yourself that going to vote is not as important? If your candidate is way behind do you not bother to go thinking it wont matter anyway? Or does this get more voters motivated to go and vote for their candidate who is behind in the polls?

The media is giving people what they want, people tune in or pick up the paper and they want to know how their candidate is doing. Each year we are making it harder for city and county clerks to tabulate votes by adding early voting, absentee votes, in lieu of ballots, paper ballots, and a myriad of rules and regulations. Yet in today's society we want the quick answers. We want to know right after the polls close who won. It is a race to see which T.V. station can proclaim a winner first. We don't want accuracy as much as we want speed. And can we have both?

Good luck to all the candidates today and I want to thank all of you for giving of yourselves in order to better your community. To run for office is hard on you, your family and your friends. The only thing harder is what happens when you get your wish and win.

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