AJC election results will exclude number of precincts reported

Voting stickers and hand sanitizers are ready for use during the Georgia primary elections at Pinckneyville Community Center in Norcross on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Voting stickers and hand sanitizers are ready for use during the Georgia primary elections at Pinckneyville Community Center in Norcross on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has decided to stop displaying election results in terms of “precincts reported” because with so many absentee ballots this year, the number of precincts counted no longer accurately represents how many votes have actually been counted.

Nearly half of all voters cast absentee ballots in Georgia’s primary, but those votes weren’t always included when election officials reported how many precincts were accounted for. It took several days for many counties to finish scanning so many absentee ballots, delaying final results until all votes were counted.

The AJC will still publish a web page on election night with the total number of votes each candidate has received as results come in from state and county election officials. But the heavy usage of absentee ballots makes it impossible to evaluate how many votes remain to be counted.

The uncertainty led to inaccurate predictions by The Associated Press that Democratic candidates in Georgia’s 7th and 13th congressional districts were heading to runoffs when in fact they had won outright. The AJC didn’t make the same error and doesn’t forecast election results.

In the past, the number of precincts reporting presented a fairly complete picture of how many votes were outstanding because just 5% of voters typically cast absentee ballots. That’s no longer the case in a time when so many voters, both in Georgia and nationwide, are depending on absentee ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.