From the newsroom: Here’s what you can expect from us on Election Day (and beyond)

Election Day 2020 4 News Now Set
Copyright 4 News Now

SPOKANE, Wash – In the age of COVID-19, so many things are different. One thing, however, is certain: Tuesday, elections officials nationwide will begin counting the ballots to determine the course of history. I wanted to fill you in on what we’re planning for this historic event.

As journalists, there’s no bigger night than a presidential election. Not only do we get to enjoy the time-honored tradition of election night pizza, but we also bear witness when those first ballot returns start coming in, we get the extraordinary privilege of sharing all of that information with you. We don’t take this responsibility lightly.

Weeks ago, we set out to make sure your voice was a key part of our election coverage. Through our #4ThePeople project, we asked you to share what was important to you and to challenge us to find answers to the questions you wanted asked. We dug into policy statements, we tracked campaign finance reports and we took your questions and concerns directly to the candidates.

Most people, though, had questions about the security of their ballot and the integrity of the election system. Through months of political rhetoric, much of it unfounded, many of you came to distrust a system you never thought to question before. We did our best – and will continue – to share with you detailed information about how our ballots are processed, tracked and counted.

Because of the dramatic increase in mail-in ballots nationwide, much of the country will learn what vote-by-mail Washingtonians have known for years: we don’t necessarily know the results on election night. There are no federal rules about when states have to count those mail-in ballots. Some, like Washington, can be counted as long as they’re postmarked or dropped off on Election Day. Other states, like Idaho, require that ballots are in the election offices by the time the polls close in order to be counted.

The battleground state of Pennsylvania may not have results until Wednesday morning.

If the race is close, it’s very possible many of us will go to bed on election night not knowing who will spend the next four years in the White House. Patience is a virtue we will need, but when it comes to politics, few of us have.

You’ll see those calls for patience echoed nationwide. My favorite just appeared on Twitter: Leslie Odom, Jr revised the song he sang as Aaron Burr in Hamilton, urging all of us to Wait For It in the name of democracy.

As a journalist and newsroom manager, I have to guide my team to resist the temptation to call anything too early. Almost nothing is certain on election night 2020. When you tune into our coverage on 4 News Now, and our new streaming app KXLY+ on Tuesday, you will see the numbers as they come in and some perspective on what it might mean. You will see live reports of what’s happening at the polls in Idaho and the voter services centers in Spokane. You’ll see national coverage of results. You will not see us projecting winners at a local level. There’s simply too much that can change between tomorrow and when the bulk of ballots come in. We’ll give you the numbers and let you decide if someone will win.

Our reporters will be covering every angle on Election Day, from the polling locations in North Idaho to the voter services centers in Spokane and all the big races in between. I’m so proud of our mix of backgrounds, experience levels and perspectives on our team. Some are longtime Spokane journalists, others voted in Washington for the first time this year. Our full team is “all hands on deck” and you will only see a fraction of them on TV. Most are working behind the scenes to collect stories, write newscasts, order and make graphics, run cameras, add content to our website and beyond. My role tomorrow: quality control and (most importantly) food fetcher.

I’m so proud of our team and look forward to seeing all of their hard work come together on Tuesday.

For national coverage, we’ll be relying on the expert team at ABC News to share developments. The network may project a winner for president, but that will be their call, not ours.

We will also cover any attempts to stifle the vote in our area and any violence or unrest that comes after votes are counted. I’m an optimist covering my sixth presidential election as a journalist; I’m hopeful that the integrity of the nation and trust in the process prevails.

I hope you’ll continue to be part of our #4ThePeople coverage Tuesday and beyond, sharing your thoughts on the election and your questions after it’s over. We’re grateful for your trust in us and belief in the system. From our slice of election night pizza to yours, cheers.