Blue Shift, ballot
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Law Professor and election expert Edward Foley on how to understand the election results of 2020, and how long it may take them to come into focus.

For most of our history the Electoral College worked as intended. It wasn’t until 1992, and then again in 2000 and 2012, that it went off the rails. However, it’s also possible that a straightforward national popular vote could be even more undemocratic than the system we have now.

All of this is part of the conversation in this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast with Ohio state law professor and election expert Edward Foley. The author of Presidential Elections and Majority Rule, Foley is one of our leading experts on elections and the Electoral College. 

Foley coined the term “Blue Shift” in 2012 to explain how and why Democratic ballots have trended more towards vote-by-mail and provisional, and therefore are counted after election day and are often not reflected in election night tallies. 

Yet he warns that things may be different this time. In 2020, The Blue Shift could be more intense, or it might not happen at all. Before March, efforts had been underway to design projections and statistical modeling to incorporate The Blue Shift — but the pandemic renders these efforts obsolete.

At the same time, Foley takes care to remind us that, based on the laws of all 50 states and the Constitution, delay on election night only means a delay in projections, not a delay in the counting of votes or tabulating the results.

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Full Text Transcript: 

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Jeff Schechtman: Welcome to the WhoWhatWhy Podcast. I’m your host, Jeff Schechtman.

Jeff Schechtman: For almost all the elections in our lifetime, we’ve been focused on the almost magical quality of election day and the outcomes. Who would win and who would lose? Was it the root of our personal, and sometimes partisan, anxiety and of all of our electoral efforts. This time, though, it’s different. The anxiety goes not just to the actual outcome, but how we get there, the vote counting, the media coverage, and the fear that we are in uncharted territory, lacking clarity, leadership, and even the simple reassurance that it will all be okay. The electoral college, the post office, exit polling, the red and blue maps, things that we have come to assimilate into our collective and sometimes exciting sense of what traditional American elections are all about, have all come under siege and no one seems to feel good about any of it. It’s as if thunderstorms had wiped out 4th of July parades from coast to coast.

Jeff Schechtman: Joining me to try and put some of this in both historical and contemporary perspective is my guest, Edward Foley. Professor Foley directs the election law program at Ohio State University where he teaches law and was a solicitor general for the state of Ohio. He participated in the 2019 national task force on election crisis. And last year, he published a paper entitled ‘Preparing for a Disputed Presidential Election: an Exercise in Election risk Assessment and Management’. He’s the author of the recent book, Presidential Elections and Majority Rule, and published a Washington Post op ed a couple of weeks ago on the falsehood of election delay. It is my pleasure to welcome Professor Edward Foley to the WhoWhatWhy Podcast. Ed, thanks so much for joining us.

Professor Edward Foley: Oh, thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be with you.

Jeff Schechtman: There’s so much talk. I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that we don’t see something or hear something where somebody says, “Gee, if only the electoral college didn’t exist, if only it was a direct election.” But the truth of the matter is that up until about 1992, this was really never an issue, never a problem that we encountered in the same way. Talk about that historical context first.

Professor Edward Foley: Sure. No, it’s absolutely right that for, essentially, most of the 20th century, the electoral college both functioned as it was supposed to and functioned in a way that was consistent with this idea of the national will in general. It didn’t seem like the apparatus was causing problems.

Professor Edward Foley: You’re right, starting in 1992 with Ross Perot’s independent candidacy that made it, really, a three person race, it’s normally you only have two candidates on the debate stage, but Ross Perot was on the debate stage and that was, I think, a factor in everybody’s mind. And it did affect the way in which the infrastructure handled three candidates.

Professor Edward Foley: If we go all the way back to the 19th century, what I didn’t realize, actually, until I did work for the book, was that our electoral college is the second electoral college. The first one was in the original constitution, but it fell apart in the election of 1800. And they put it back together with quite different premises, philosophically, and then mechanically it was very different for the election of 1804, which is Thomas Jefferson running for reelection. And it was really built with him in mind and with the concept of two-party competition in mind that the founders, in Philadelphia, in 1787, had hoped to avoid partisanship and political parties, if you can believe it.

Professor Edward Foley: And, of course, they did not get their way. And the parties appeared quite quickly and became ferociously competitive. And if any of you have seen the musical Hamilton, the great musical, you know about 1800 is the Aaron Burr and Jefferson, Hamilton, and all those folks. And it was ugly, but Jefferson ends up president, and they realized they’ve got two party competition, and they rebuild the electoral college.

Professor Edward Foley: And then what they forget, though, is there could be more than two parties. So, the world that they live in at the moment is just the Federalists versus the Jeffersonians. They don’t think about Ross Perot or Ralph Nader or the Green Party, or Jill Stein. And this is a long, complicated story, but to cut to the chase, the 20th century manages to handle this for the most part, until recently.

Professor Edward Foley: And then we can talk about 1992, we can talk about 2000 and we can talk about 2016, and our apparatus does not match the reality of competition or our expectations of the way the system’s supposed to work.

Jeff Schechtman: In 1992, it was unique and sui generis in many ways because of a third party candidate being so actively involved, but then something else happened in terms of the change in the makeup of the electorate that really led us to 2000, and 2016.

Professor Edward Foley: The hope is that the voting system can handle the voters. We did get the national voter registration act or so-called motor voter, which did expand voter registration. And the goal, I think, for most of us who believe in popular sovereignty, government of the people, by the people, for the people, hopes that all adult citizens, all voters, are able to register and participate, and the turnout is high. You know, regrettably, we’ve often had lower participation rates than is desirable. If you have an image of everybody participating, so our systems should be able to handle everybody voting.

Professor Edward Foley: And, of course, the other problem that we’ve seen both this year with the pandemic, but even, for example, president Obama had to create a long line commission because there were four- or five-, six-hour lines, people trying to vote in his election. And that’s troubling for a law person, like me, because the legal infrastructure should be able to handle that anybody who wants to vote. And if you’ve got four- or five-, six-hour lines, your system is not working properly.

Jeff Schechtman: What else is it in the system that is leading us to situations like 2000, 2016, and clearly what could be the case again in 2020, where the electoral vote and the popular vote are not in sync?

Professor Edward Foley: Yeah. There are a couple of things, and here are some philosophical views are important, just to put the cards on the table. I would be happy to get rid of the electoral college and replace it with a so-called national popular vote where the voter in California and a voter in Iowa, and one in Delaware, and Florida, they all count equally and it’s all one big pool and you count them all.

Professor Edward Foley: I do think there’s an important distinction between a so-called plurality winner, which just is whoever gets the most votes versus the majority winner, which is more than 50%. And, again, those two things mean the same thing if there are only two candidates. Because, by definition, more in a two-person race is a majority. And, so, when they built the 12th amendment, which is our current and second electoral college, and they built it for two party competition, they got confused about this distinction between plurality and majority.

Professor Edward Foley: They knew they wanted majority winners. They actually talked about that, but they didn’t think they had to worry about it too much because the world that they then lived in was us versus them. And so it’s when the third party or the independent candidate comes along, that this distinction between a plurality result, and a majority result, matters immensely. And the electoral college itself says you have to win a majority of electoral votes, but the way it’s implemented at the state level, states can choose how they appoint their own electors.

Professor Edward Foley: And again, when they wrote the 12th amendment, they expected every state to require a majority choice to appoint electors, because that’s the way it was done back then. That disappeared after Andrew Jackson, and later in the 19th century. And that’s the kind of change that catches up with us. When we talk today about the national vote and the discrepancy between the national vote and the electoral college vote, I think it’s important to drill down into that.

Professor Edward Foley: Let’s go to 2016, because a lot of people talk about how Hillary Clinton won the national vote, but not the electoral college. That’s all true, but she did not get a majority of the national vote. She got more votes, 3 million more votes, essentially than Trump, but it was still a plurality. It was under 50%. Trump gets a majority of the electoral college, but what most people don’t know, because the media doesn’t focus on this, it’s the way in which President Trump achieved his electoral college majority. He gets over 100 electoral votes, a third of his total in states where he’s under 50% in the state, and yet he’s getting all the electoral votes from those states. All the battle grounds that we’re talking about this year, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, all of those states, Trump is under 50% in the popular vote. There are more votes against him than for him, if you will.

Professor Edward Foley: And, yet, he’s getting all the electoral college votes from all of those states. Florida, 29 electoral votes, Trump gets all 29. He’s under 50%. And part of the reason why I wrote the book is that that didn’t make sense from the little bit I knew at the time about the system, so I wanted to dig in and try to figure it out. And it turns out, that’s just not how the system’s supposed to work. They expected that, if you were going to get Florida’s votes, you would be the majority preferred candidate in Florida, not a minority candidate, not a plurality winner, same in any other state. Because what they thought, their conception of majority rule, this is the Jeffersonians. This is what Thomas Jefferson had in mind. Their conception was you get a national majority in the electoral college by building a series of state-based majorities.

Professor Edward Foley: So, Thomas Jefferson is the majority preferred candidate in Virginia over John Adams, same in Pennsylvania, same in New York, and so forth. Not in Massachusetts, obviously, they liked John Adams, but if you accumulate enough state-based majorities, that will give you your electoral college majority. And they thought that was an appropriate conception of majority rule for a United States of America that was a federation of states.

Professor Edward Foley: I think there’s two points to think about. One is if we just want to be true to the philosophy of the system that’s supposed to exist, we would try to implement it. And so we would try to figure out who’s the majority preferred in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, in Florida, and then build your electoral college off of that. But we don’t do that. And so the system is kind of going awry from that perspective.

Professor Edward Foley: And, actually, in 1992, again, this is a nonpartisan point or a bipartisan point. It’s just an analytical point about how to structure the system so that the citizens get what they want according to the rules as it’s supposed to work. Bill Clinton’s full name is William Jefferson Clinton, but I sometimes joke that he’s the least Jeffersonian winner despite his middle name, because the only state that he wins a majority in the state is his home state of Arkansas, plus the district of Columbia. Every other state that gives him electoral votes, he’s under 50%. Sometimes he’s under 40%.

Professor Edward Foley: And the George H. W. Bush folks say, “Well, wait a second. It’s all because of Ross Perot. If it had just been a two-person race, I would have won.” Now, political scientists disagree with that. And the point is, we don’t know because we don’t have rank choice voting, or other mechanisms at the state level to give us majority answers. That’s what’s inconsistent with the majority rule premise of the electoral college.

Professor Edward Foley: Now, if we wanted to replace the electoral colleges, I would happily do with a constitutional amendment. We would have to have a choice of whether, even if we pool everybody’s vote nationwide into a single pot, we still have to answer the question, “Are we going to have a majority winner or not?” And most citizens, when they think about democracy, they do think majority rule because you think, “Well, you need that mandate of a majority because that’s more, right?”

Professor Edward Foley: I mean, if there’s going to be disagreement and one side is going to win and one side is going to lose, you think the majority side should prevail. Yes, we protect minority rights through the equal protection clause and the first amendment. We don’t want tyranny of the majority, but we also don’t want the majority to have to suffer under minority rule. That seems undemocratic, small D democratic.

Professor Edward Foley: But if we implement majority rule in a national popular vote, we would have to have some mechanism, whether it was Congress or otherwise, to get to that majority winner in terms of a [inaudible 00:14:13]. Because if you have three candidates, if Jill Stein wants to run, or Kanye West wants to run, you’ve got to figure out how you narrow down from a field of multiple candidates, to the two finalists who… Because once you get to two finalists, you can definitely get a majority winner. It’s when you have more than two candidates that it’s trickier.

Jeff Schechtman: Right, I mean, it’s entirely possible to have a situation where you have a candidate that gets minority votes in a ton of different states and wins the popular vote, a nationwide majority, by getting 5 million or 6 million extra votes in California or New York, for example.

Professor Edward Foley: Right, so we may see this year, I mean, there’s so many different outcomes that could happen, but different from 2016, we may see it is, at least, some of the modeling shows that vice president Biden could get an outright majority nationwide, over 50%, and still lose the electoral college. That, I think, would count, in my mind, as a failure of the system even more so than 2016. The system kind of malfunctioned in 2016 for the reasons that we talked about. But the malfunction would be even more severe and, in a way, qualitatively different if that happened.

Professor Edward Foley: Then you would really have to ask the question, “Why do we want this Jeffersonian model anymore?” Because the Jeffersonians would’ve said, “We don’t care about a nationwide aggregate,” because we do care, we are trying to add up majority choice in Virginia, majority choice in New York, majority choice in Pennsylvania. But they would have said, “If you win New York nine to one and Pennsylvania nine to one, that’s irrelevant because once you’re above 50%, that’s all that…

Professor Edward Foley: So, we don’t want majority choice in Virginia and South Carolina and Maryland swamped by somebody who just runs up the score in New York. I mean, again, you could disagree with that philosophy, but they were clear that was there… They had what we can call a compound conception of majority rule. And I think most Americans today think it should be just a simple nationwide majority.

Jeff Schechtman: The overlay to all of this, of course, as complex as it is, is this whole issue with this coming election about how the votes get counted, how long it takes, as you wrote about in your op ed piece in the post, what constitutes a delay, and the other aspect, which is something you’ve written quite a lot about. In fact, you coined the phrase of this blue shift in the way votes shift during the counting process. Talk about that.

Professor Edward Foley: Sure. No, happy to. And I think the most important first point is it’s always been true that anything we hear on election night is unofficial and preliminary. And when the networks themselves, whatever terminology they use, sometimes they say they’re declaring a winner or calling the race or whatever, they have no legal status to do that. They do that as a service to their audience, which is fine because it takes two or three weeks to get an official result in a legal sense. You have to have the certification of the canvasing of the returns, and you want that for accuracy.

Professor Edward Foley: From a point of rule of law point of view, it’s that certification which defines a winner on a state by state basis. But, usually, and historically, the election night tally, which is preliminary, has given you an incredibly high confidence that that’s going to match two to three weeks later with the official certification.

Professor Edward Foley: That’s allowed us to feel comfortable having the networks call it and then rely upon that. But we just need to understand, especially this year, that there aren’t any true results in a legal sense on an election night. So if anybody’s telling you, “We’ve got to know an answer on election night,” that’s just not understanding as a matter of law how the system works.

Professor Edward Foley: The other piece to this, and this gets to the blue shift point, is the ability to make that confident projection on election night is entirely dependent on the ratio of in-person ballots versus mailed ballots, absentee ballots, because in states and places where, and historically, where the vast majority of the ballots are in person, they can have that preliminary tally right after the polls closed, the precinct workers run them through the machines, you get a preliminary count.

Professor Edward Foley: And, again, you’re confident that that’s going to be the final count. And if absentee ballots are only 5% or less of the total, they’re going to split, not exactly 50/50, but they’re probably not going to change the results. That’s what allows you to make the projection.

Professor Edward Foley: If you go into an election like this year, where in many states that ratio shifts and it’s going to be 50% vote by mail, maybe 80%, some States post 100%, if not 100% vote by mail, you can’t make the same kind of projection, especially if it’s a purple state or closely contested. But that’s not nefarious. Nothing is wrong about that.

Professor Edward Foley: And it’s driven entirely by voter choice because, in most states, even the states that aren’t so called universal vote-by-mail, but just have gone to what’s called no-excuse-vote-by-mail where you, the voter, can vote by mail if that’s your choice, you don’t need a medical reason or anything like that. You get to decide what’s your preference. So that ratio is not determined by the government anymore. It’s determined by each voter making a decision and all those collective decisions. So, that’s why we may just have to be patient because the projections, maybe the networks understand if they say, “We’re just not going to project.”

Professor Edward Foley: Now, what’s the blue shift? The blue shift is a phenomenon that has developed because of the increased reliance on vote by mail primarily, also provisional voting. All of these reforms in our legal structure are good things that have come out of a way to improve the system because of the problems with the 2000 election Bush versus Gore and hanging chad and the long lines problems that we were talking about, and so forth.

Professor Edward Foley: And so we now want to improve the process. But a collateral consequence of that improvement is increasing the ratio of ballots that are just not available to be counted on election night. And turns out that those ballots tend to be more democratic in nature. That’s why we call it blue, right? Blue versus red, nothing nefarious. Again, that’s all voter choice. It just so happens that there is this persistent pattern. It’s not every state, it’s not every election, but there’s been a consistent trend in that direction since 2004.

Jeff Schechtman: Part of what had gone on previously in terms of whether it’s the networks, or associated press, or what have you, calling these elections is that it was based on a certain degree of statistical modeling that if you know, for example, how 50% of the people voted, or 60% of the people, how they voted, that, statistically, the other 40% or the part that isn’t counted, will probably break the same way, essentially. What this blue shift idea does, and what these reforms that you talk about have done, is really changed that equation entirely.

Professor Edward Foley: Yes, I think that’s right. Again, and I’m not inside any of these network decision desks and some of that’s proprietary, but there’ve been some public conferences over the last month or so as everybody’s getting a better understanding of how things are different and will be even more different because of the virus.

Professor Edward Foley: I mean, I think one thing to really emphasize is the blue shift was occurring before the pandemic hit because of these other changes that were post 2000, that were good reforms. We were starting to see the blue shift as a new, consistent trend. I mean, I first noticed this in 2012, for example, and so I wrote about it then. And also we saw it in 2018, it turned out to be quite significant and caught some people by surprise. And so I went back and looked at it again, as you said, in a paper written last year.

Professor Edward Foley: That was all before the pandemic. I think most people now understand that the even much greater reliance on vote by mail because of the pandemic, and also the differential partisan reaction to the [inaudible] vote by mail issue that President Trump has kind of put into the national conversation in the way that he has, it’s caused this real partisan differential between how Republicans sort of feel about the electoral process in them versus Democrats. That’s why we could very likely see the election day results being much more red-shifted, if you will, relative to the total count. The degree of disparity between the preliminary count on election night, and then the secondary count after all of the mail ballots are counted, it could be much more pronounced than the past, and that’s going to affect the networks and their model.

Professor Edward Foley: And I think they realize that, but I also think they’re trying to play catch up in the sense that they don’t want to abandon the role of making projections if they can. They’re just going to be cautious about it. They are all publicly saying it’s more important to get it right than get it fast. And I think that’s good. But they want to inform their viewers of what they’re capable of saying. And there’s some value to that. I mean, there’s Rick… In other words, you don’t want networks calling races too soon, and that would be a very bad mistake.

Professor Edward Foley: On the other hand, you don’t want to invite a sense of uncertainty that is also non-existent. So if, again, we have no idea what election night’s actually going to look like, because there could be multiple scenarios, but if the early vote is actually much bluer than expected and you know, from all the reasons we’re talking about it, it’s going to get even more bluer over the next two weeks, then it would be misinforming the public to say, “Well, we don’t know what’s going on because we only have 50% of the vote in, and we’re waiting for the other 50%.”

Professor Edward Foley: I mean, I don’t want to try to tell the networks what to do, but just from a law perspective, it would be appropriate to say, “We’re not going to get a legal result for two or three weeks, but based on demographic analysis and historical trends, if the early results are looking this good for team blue, there’s reasons to expect that it’s going to continue.”

Professor Edward Foley: The other scenario to think about is if the early results look really good for team red, that’s a situation where those early results may dissipate because of the blue shift phenomenon that is to be expected. I think how you talk about it and think about it really depends on which context you’re in and what you know, and what you don’t know. As long as the public isn’t properly informed, and it’s all transparent and you’re not declaring winners based on projections, hopefully we’ll at least have an understanding of the situation.

Jeff Schechtman: The other aspect is that the blue shift that you identified and have written and talked about was, as you said before the pandemic, it’s really not clear how it’s going to play out in the context of the pandemic. And we could find that the blue shift, in fact, may be less pronounced in the pandemic. We just don’t know because of the change in circumstance.

Professor Edward Foley: No, I think that’s right. In fact, my first assessment, or tentative assessment, post pandemic was precisely that, that if everybody was now going to be voting by mail, essentially, because of the pandemic, that would tend to diminish the blue [inaudible 00:27:09], right? And that, therefore, one shouldn’t be overly expectant of that.

Professor Edward Foley: But I’ve adjusted that sense of it as a result of, again, this public conversation where President Trump is so hostile to vote by mail, and we started to see public opinion research coming from Pew and Gallup and all the other organizations, basically telling us the Democrats were going to plan, we’re planning to vote by mail and Republicans weren’t. I had to reassess the situation based on that updated information, recognizing this is all tentative and very volatile.

Professor Edward Foley: But then, even since then, with Michelle Obama at the convention, suggesting that if you’re healthy, maybe you want to try to vote early in person and the postal service, all the problems associated with that, it may be that there is something of the pendulum may swing back.

Professor Edward Foley: And if it turns out that, in fact, there’s not that much of a disparity between Republicans and Democrats in mode of voting this year, again, then, we could be back to the situation where there’s not that much of a blue shift because yes, we’re getting lots of absentee ballots, but a lot of them are red and a lot of them are blue. So don’t expect a big disparity there.

Professor Edward Foley: So I agree with you that we should not jump to any conclusions, and we should recognize that this, because of the pandemic, this is going to be an especially volatile year. And we have to be able to assess the circumstances as they arise.

Jeff Schechtman: And it really brings us to the final point, which you wrote about in your post piece, that if we don’t know particular results, if we don’t know the total results, so we don’t know state results on election night, that’s not a delay. It’s just part of the process playing out in a different way.

Professor Edward Foley: Exactly. That’s the key point. Because what I fear, with the delay narrative, is that plays in the hands for people who want to say something’s going wrong. The word delay or the word late, that’s pejorative, I think. That’s based on a frame that you ought to have an answer, and you don’t.

Professor Edward Foley: And then if you take that the next step and say, “Well, because something’s going wrong, we can’t trust it.” I think that’s problematic. I think one of the most disappointing things that might happen this year, I certainly hope it doesn’t, is that the system actually works well enough to give us an authentic, true result. In other words, that the outcome that the system revealed is that one of the voters, as a group, genuinely wanted. That’s the system working. But if so much doubt has been thrown over it in the public conversation that people don’t even trust the valid results, that’s really undermining popular sovereignty.

Professor Edward Foley: You can’t have self-government unless you can trust the results of self- government. That’s why I think the word delay is wrong because it’s inaccurate, because it’s not a delay. There’s no delay as a matter of law until we get to… There are a couple of dates in December. If you miss those dates then, yes, things start to be a delay and late.

Professor Edward Foley: But from the structure of our system, Congress has given states until December 8th is one key date, and December 14th is the other. So, let’s pick December 8th for sake of argument. Nothing is late unless a state is missing that December 8th deadline, and then the states have their own rules for when they’re supposed to certify results. So the fact that we’re waiting for the certification to come true and to see what the projections were that none of that’s late, that’s just the system working according to its own schedule.

Jeff Schechtman: Is it your sense, having evolved this idea of the blue shift, that if the pandemic wasn’t part of the equation right now – and we just don’t know the effect that’s going to have, because it’s too much of an unknown – but that the blue shift, as you’ve seen it evolve, just since 2012, is something that could be projected and put into mathematical models in terms of projections.

Professor Edward Foley: Probably. Again, remember I’m a law person, not a statistician. I’ve coauthored with a great political scientist named Charles Stewart at MIT who really can crunch the numbers. And so anything I’m about to say on this point, I really learned from him and his colleagues in his field. And so I do think there is the capacity to do some of that statistical and demographic analysis so that if you knew where the absentee votes were going to come from, urban versus rural, those sorts of things, again, it’s a little bit like relying on exit polls, right?

Professor Edward Foley: But then it also makes things a little dangerous because you are, it is modeling as opposed to just a preliminary count. Some of the networks’ projection is based on exit polls, some of it is based on, “Okay, the precinct’s tally isn’t certified, but we have actual preliminary numbers from the precincts.” And so I’m always more confident if I can know that the networks are relying, not just on exit polls, but a preliminary count of real balance.

Jeff Schechtman: But very difficult to convince people of it in a world in which they can get anything they want at the click of an app.

Professor Edward Foley: Yes. I know. I agree. I think, with Twitter and everything, I mean, we are a culture that is increasingly so, over the decades of instant gratification. I do think it’s on the media and the networks to try to explain what you and I took a few minutes to talk about. I don’t think it’s impossible to understand this point.

Professor Edward Foley: It may go against our ingrained psychology, but the thing that worries me, I think the networks are at the point now where they’re halfway there to where they need to be because they understand that, as you were saying, the modeling’s going to be very different and they need to be tentative about projections. But the other half, I don’t think they’ve quite got the vocabulary and the mindset right in that they still are using this terminology of delay.

Professor Edward Foley: They’re still frustrated by the fact that they’re not going to have an answer, and they’re not willing to acknowledge that they’re the cause of this in the sense that it’s only because of their practice of projections that we’ve come into this expectation of having it on election night or sooner. Right?

Professor Edward Foley: Delay is only in reference to the media desire, and public culture desire, for instant gratification. But since that’s a product of the media world that the media kind of owes it to all of us to try to undo that expectation as much as possible.

Jeff Schechtman: I don’t expect any kind of a valve of no projections until all the results are in.

Professor Edward Foley: No, I agree with that. But couldn’t the media, again, if they say these are only projections, and if they’re careful to say, “When you learn the true result in a few weeks, don’t think of that as delayed.” Think of that, because that’s according to calendar, right? I mean the state law has a deadline. Again, it’s different state to state, but let’s say a state has a deadline of certification three weeks from election day. As long as the state meets that deadline, there’s no delay.

Professor Edward Foley: I would hope the media could say, “Any waiting that you’re doing between now and three weeks from now is not delay. It’s waiting because we can’t project the way we normally do.” Why? Not because of any problem, nobody’s fault. It’s this ratio, it’s the nature of vote by mail means we can’t project the way we used to. It doesn’t mean the government is doing anything wrong. It certainly doesn’t mean there’s any fraud. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong. It just means we, the media, can’t project. If you want to think about it as a delay, it’s just a delay in the world of projections. It’s not a delay in the world of vote counting.

Jeff Schechtman: Professor Edward Foley, I thank you so much for spending time with us.

Professor Edward Foley: I’m delighted to be with you. I enjoyed the conversation and good luck, as you say, as we watch from now to November.

Jeff Schechtman: Thank you.

Jeff Schechtman: And thank you for listening and for joining us here on radio WhoWhatWhy. I hope you join us next week for another radio WhoWhatWhy podcast. I’m Jeff Schechtman.

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  • Jeff Schechtman

    Jeff Schechtman’s career spans movies, radio stations and podcasts. After spending twenty-five years in the motion picture industry as a producer and executive, he immersed himself in journalism, radio, and more recently the world of podcasts. To date he has conducted over ten-thousand interviews with authors, journalists, and thought leaders. Since March of 2015, he has conducted over 315 podcasts for

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