Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Jan. 20, 2021

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From the Newsroom: Most races certain before certified

By , Columbian Editor
Published:

I received a handful of complaints after the general election from people who were upset that we had reported the results in the next day’s paper.

Since this was the first time in 36 years I had heard that particular complaint, I assume that they were following Donald Trump’s line about how the media was somehow conspiring to report the results as soon as possible and thus deny him his rightful victory. Frankly, I don’t understand the logic.

It feels like the election has been over for a while now. But if we had granted those requests, you wouldn’t have heard who won most races until this week, when the results were certified. And you wouldn’t be hearing about who won the presidency for another 16 days, because the Electoral College doesn’t meet until Dec. 14.

Can you imagine the distrust in our political system that would be engendered by such long waits?

Of course, results can and do change as votes are received and counted. This is especially true in Washington, where ballots merely need to be postmarked on or before Election Day. This year, about 4,100 ballots were received by Clark County Elections after Nov. 3. That’s out of nearly 280,000 total ballots received.

In other words, more than 98 percent of Clark County ballots were received by Election Day. About 80 percent were counted that night.

Two local races changed leaders as later-arriving votes were counted, and we duly reported it as soon as it happened. Our first stories had reported both races were too close to call on election night. But by Friday, Nov. 6, all the local races were decided.

My view is that you had the right to know all of this as it unfolded. After all, that’s freedom of information!

Endorsing winners

One complaint that wasn’t new this year was about our editorial board’s candidate endorsements. You’re out of touch, they said. So how did we do?

Of 24 races/measures we endorsed, voters agreed with us on 19. In three cases, they elected Republicans where we recommended Democrats, and in one case elected a Democrat over a Republican we preferred. The other difference was Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8212, which concerned certain state investments. My theory is that people voted no instead of yes because not enough of them read our editorial.

Sports to the rescue

Since we’re staying at home, I am watching way too much football on TV. Even if I wanted to follow local high school sports, there’s nothing happening until at least February.

So what to do with our talented sports journalists?

Basically, we’ve taken three of the five and turned their talents toward new challenges, at least temporarily:

• Meg Wochnick has transitioned into a full-time job covering education. She knows the schools, she knows the kids, and she knows the coaches, many of whom are teachers. Now she’s meeting the administrators and the school boards, and will be able to bring coverage from all of perspectives. She succeeds Katie Gillespie, who changed careers and left town.

• Joshua Hart is splitting his time equally between sports news and general assignment photography. As a sports reporter he often illustrates his own stories, but now is covering all types of assignments. He succeeds Alisha Jucevic, who left to pursue freelance opportunities.

• Micah Rice is our sports editor and covers breaking news on Sundays. He is also part of a secret project I will tell you about in a few weeks.

So far, they seem to like their new assignments. It is fun to work with people who are looking for new ways to build their skills and at the same time better serve our readers.

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