Data Has Been a Compelling Element in Presidential Election Drama – Thanks to ‘Magic Wall’ & Other Tech

Published: November 6, 2020

As a journalist by trade, I’ve never been particularly proficient when it comes to math, at least once I got to geometry. I was decent in algebra, but all hope was lost when geometry came into the picture.

What’s interesting is I’ve always been pretty good at figuring out percentages and things along those lines, but that probably has to do with my love of baseball and understanding how all of those statistics are calculated.

That said, I’ve been watching as much presidential election coverage as I could since Tuesday night, trying to follow along with CNN’s Magic Wall and the other technological wizardry that’s helping the networks try to project the winner in this surprisingly close race for the White House.

Related: The AV Powering U.S. Election Media Coverage

I don’t know why the different networks have different figures based on the same information, but the fact the anchors are able to synthesize the information pretty much on the spot all night long—then into the next day and the next and the next—is pretty fascinating and compelling.

It certainly shows in a powerful way the way data can be used to tell a story and trace it as it changes, sometimes almost minute to minute and sometimes not much for a couple of days.

I can’t but wonder, though, if fast-talking John King, a Massachusetts native and the man with an up-close-and-personal relationship with the Magic Wall, is a little bit too familiar with the data and some of the cities and towns across this great land of ours.

Is there too much data available at King’s disposal? How does he know when I repainted my house and how much I pay every month for my cell phone?

Here’s an all-too-real parody version of King’s ability to bounce from street to street and county to county across the U.S.:

While my home state isn’t really in the spotlight on Election Night(s) because of its strong lean to the left (I can’t remember the last time a Republican won in the Bay State and several have run as the party’s nominee), it’s still fascinating for pundits to bounce around the map and be able speak off the cuff intelligently about what’s going on in that region.

That speaks to the power of data, and it’s been compelling to watch—but please let it be over soon. I’m ready for the Magic Wall to be retired until the 2024 presidential race starts some time next week.

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