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NYTs: Networks Would Call Election With Polls Still Open

Last week, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) called on TV networks and other news organizations to refrain from calling the presidential winner while the polls remain open on the West Coast.

Today, The New York Times reports on the responses from some of those outlets. And here’s a hint: Dingell won’t be pleased.

Paul Friedman, senior vice president at CBS News, for example, told The Times that the results from just a few East Coast states could reveal an early winner:

“We could know Virginia at 7,” he said. “We could know Indiana before 8. We could know Florida at 8. We could know Pennsylvania at 8. We could know the whole story of the election with those results. We can’t be in this position of hiding our heads in the sand when the story is obvious.”

Similarly, Slate’s David Plotz told The Times that, depending on early returns, he might call the race before 9 pm.

“Our readers are not stupid, and we shouldn’t engage in a weird Kabuki drama that pretends McCain could win California and thus the presidency,” Mr. Plotz wrote. “We will call it when a sensible person — not a TV news anchor who has to engage in a silly pretense about West Coast voters — would call it.”

The fear, of course, is that the networks will either flub their predictions (like they did in Florida in 2000) or paint a false portrait of victory that leaves West-Coast voters wondering why they should bother participating at all — the scenario suspected in 2004 after leaked exit poll results found Sen. John Kerry the likely winner.

On the other hand, if the early predictions are correct, we might at least get some sleep tonight.

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