Brian Stelter and Sam Feist:
STELTER: Typically 11:00 p.m. is the earliest time — 11:00 p.m. eastern time — that an election will be called because the western states have closed their polls. Is there any chance of a projection at 11:00 p.m. on November 3?
FEIST: Yes, of course there’s a chance of a projection. It is possible and we tend to make projections early on election night if the race is not close particularly in those battleground states, so it is possible. But it is entirely possible that there won’t be a projection on election night.You know, people forget that in two of the last five elections, we have gone to bed without a president-elect. Everyone remembers 2000 where Florida was the deciding state and then it was too close to call on election night, and we didn’t know, and it took another 31 days.But the very next election was 2004, and in that case, Ohio was the state that was going to be decisive and we did not have enough votes in to project a winner on election night, so we waited. And it was midday the next day when enough results were clear in Ohio that George W. Bush won Ohio and was reelected. So, it is not unusual for elections to not be decided on Election Day, especially this year because mail-in ballots take longer to count. You have to open them, you have to process them, and so it could be that we don’t know until Wednesday or Thursday or even later. But I think the vast majority of the votes in the country will be counted by late in the election week, so I believe that we will likely know a winner. It just may not be on election night.And that’s OK. That doesn’t mean anything is wrong. The public, the media, the candidates just need to be a little bit patient.
What if a candidate prematurely declares victory?
STELTER: Right. We need to tell people to have patience. A slow count is a safe count. But you know, we don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of Florida or other key states, what’s going to happen with the turnout in those votes. What about let’s say it’s midnight or 1:00 a.m., and Donald Trump comes out and says I am the winner of the election, and our data does not back that up at all, what will CNN do?
FEIST: If we have not projected enough states for a candidate to get to 270 electoral votes, and a candidate comes out and declares victory, we will make it clear that the facts do not back up that claim of victory. And we’ll do it in a number of ways. If you’ve watched CNN’s election night, John King at the magic wall spends an awful lot of election night explaining why we haven’t projected a winner in a particular state.And he goes county by county, reveals how many votes are left to come in, how many votes have been counted, which counties have not reported much votes. This year, of course, we will layer in absentee votes throughout the night in our conversation. And if we’re not ready to project the state — we’re not ready to project the state, that doesn’t mean that anything is wrong.And we will make it clear to our viewers and our readers, that there’s simply not enough information to make a projection, and that the candidate, if a candidate goes out and declares a winner — declares victory ahead of time, that they are doing it before the votes have been counted, before — that is based in fact.