- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

Many news agencies declared Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin victorious in Maryland’s U.S. Senate race less than two hours after polls closed on Election Day.

Onlookers wondered how a winner was called at 9:40 p.m. when the Maryland State Board of Elections didn’t begin releasing results of the race until an hour later. The polls closed at 8 p.m. statewide.

The Associated Press projected the Democrat as the winner even though less than 5 percent of the precincts had reported the votes to the elections board.

David Wilkinson, AP’s Mid-Atlantic bureau chief, said the call for Mr. Cardin was based on several factors, including voter turnout, previous voting patterns and exit polling.

“We have stringers in every county calling in results as they become available,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “We’re not pulling numbers from the [board’s] Web site.”

The exit poll was conducted for AP and television networks by Edison Media Research/Mitofsky International. Up to 1,540 voters were surveyed on Tuesday as they left 33 randomly selected precincts across Maryland.

“All of our numbers and analyses showed Cardin ahead by a comfortable margin,” Mr. Wilkinson said.

Ross K. Goldstein, the elections board’s deputy administrator, said the board did not begin receiving results until about 10:30 p.m., which is typical.

He said poll workers report the results to local officials, who pass them on to the state board.

“We have a little more exacting process than the media has,” he said. “They’re calling races based upon exit polls and workers they have at polling places; we don’t do that.”

The Virginia State Board of Elections began posting results of statewide races on its Web site just after the polls closed at 7 p.m. and updated the numbers about every two minutes.

Results from 99 percent of the precincts were posted on the Web site by 12:30 a.m. yesterday.

Mr. Goldstein said the board could study the Virginia board’s techniques to see where Maryland could improve.

In Virginia, where an airtight race for U.S. Senate seemed to be headed for a recount, a disparity arose on election night about the number of precincts in the state.

The AP and other news outlets based their results of the race between Democrat James H. Webb Jr. and Republican Sen. George Allen on a total of 2,411 precincts.

The elections board based its results on 2,443 precincts. By yesterday afternoon, the unofficial number of precincts on the board’s Web site ballooned to 2,599.

The elections board did not return calls yesterday.

Dana Bloch, the operations manager in AP’s data center in Spokane, Wash., said the news agency is aware of the disparity, which he said is a result of outdated numbers received from the board in the past week.

“Their numbers must have changed since then,” he said. “We’re working on fixing the problem so that the issue will be moot.”

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