- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2008

How will you find out who the next president is?

While some will tune into their local or cable news channel of choice, many others will be online where they can access the latest coverage and election returns.

Popular online news sites such as Yahoo and Huffington Post will offer the most up-to-date information on their home pages Tuesday night with more detailed coverage on special pages.

Yahoo rolled out its political dashboard in December 2007, in time for primary voting.

“It’s one-stop shopping for almost all of the important information you need for the election,” said Richard Vega, senior editor of Yahoo News.

The political dashboard, which is the most-used tool on Yahoo News, previously featured a map with current polls; but on Tuesday, it will show when the Associated Press declares that a candidate has won a state.

Visitors to the site can create their own election scenarios by guessing which states will be won by each candidate. Mr. Vega said this tool can aid in understanding which states are key to winning the 270 Electoral College delegates needed for the presidency.

The dashboard also allows people at home to “play pundit” and predict the outcome of the election.

“I am just amazed by the constant interaction with this tool,” Mr. Vega said.

The Huffington Post will also offer special features to visitors on election night, including an election-tools page that offers a time-zone map that shows when polls close.

The page pulls together widgets from CNN, MSNBC and CBS, and provides links to video updates.

Not only is technology evolving to put exit polls and returns just a click away, this election will also witness a technological advance that will allow the deaf to “listen” to radio election coverage online.

Harris Corp., National Public Radio (NPR) and Towson University teamed up to offer a demonstration of captioned radio, which features streaming text captioning of NPR’s election broadcast.

“There’s been more and more conversation about the deaf trying to access the content of NPR,” said Neal Stein, spokesman for Technology PR Solutions.

Several screens will be in place at NPR headquarters in Washington, and there will be smaller demonstrations in Towson, Md., and in Boston, Denver and Phoenix.

A focus group at NPR headquarters will offer feedback at the end of the evening about what they thought of the technology and answer questions about the size of the text and scrolling speed.

Online users will have an opportunity to complete a survey about the experience.

“Radio coverage is a lot different than television coverage,” Mr. Stein said, because broadcasters do not have the aid of charts and graphics to explain what is occurring. Many deaf and hard-of-hearing people would like to have access to the programming that radio has to offer.

NPR.org isn’t the only Web site offering a twist on traditional election coverage.

For those interested in what coffee drinkers have had to say in the past month, Internet users need look no further than 7-Eleven’s coffee cup voting promotion: 7-Election.

This election marks the third time that 7-Eleven patrons have been able to purchase coffee in a cup featuring the candidate of their choice; the “voting” will continue until midnight on Election Day.

“This has been an incredibly exciting, volatile election,” said Rick Wilshe, brand manager for 7-Eleven hot beverages.

Doubters beware - 7-Eleven patrons have not only picked the winner in the past two elections, but they also did so in proportions similar to the popular vote.

In 2000, Bush cups outsold Gore cups by only 1 percent, and in 2004, the coffee cup poll was similar to the actual returns in many states.

Starbucks stores, not to be outdone, promise to provide a free cup of coffee to every voter who comes through the door on Tuesday.

“If you care enough to vote, we care enough to give you a free cup of coffee,” Starbucks proclaimed in a commercial that aired during NBC’s latest broadcast of “Saturday Night Live.”

Krispy Kreme Doughnut shops and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream stores are also using free eats to entice people to vote, giving away doughnuts with red, white and blue sprinkles and scoops of ice cream, respectively, to people who show up with “I Voted” stickers.

cTim Warren contributed to this article.

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