AP contracted to count votes on election night

Friday, May 16, 2003

NEW YORK -- The Associated Press announced Thursday it has signed agreements with five television networks to provide special vote tabulation services for them starting with next year's presidential primaries.

The AP will provide continuous running election-night returns on presidential, gubernatorial and congressional races for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News Channel under contracts that run through 2008.

The agreements mean that AP will be taking over one of the two primary functions of the Voter News Service, a consortium that had been created by the six news organizations in 1993 to conduct exit-polling and count votes.

VNS was disbanded after election-night failures in 2000 and 2002.

In the past, AP provided an independent vote count as a backup to the VNS tabulation, as well as providing results in thousands of state and local election races that VNS did not cover.

AP will continue to provide election returns to its other members and subscribers as part of their regular news service, and it will also offer some newly developed election services.

"AP has been tabulating the national vote and telling the nation who won since the year we were founded, which was 1848," said David Tomlin, assistant to AP President Louis D. Boccardi. "We're very good at it, and we appreciate the trust and confidence in that ability that our network partners are showing with this agreement."

The other VNS function, conducting exit surveys of voters, will be taken over by two veteran polling experts under an agreement reached earlier this year with the six news organizations. Exit poll information is used to help project winners in individual elections and provide information on why people voted the way they did.

In 2000, VNS provided flawed information that led television networks to prematurely call the presidential election for George W. Bush. Last year, it was unable to provide exit poll data for November's off-year election.

The terms of the agreements for the special new vote tabulation services to the networks were not disclosed.

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