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MSNBC Graphic May Leave Voters Out in the Cold

MSNBC viewers in the 10 states that straddle multiple time zones — including three key swing states — could be led to believe that polls in these states will be open longer than their actual closing times.

The network’s graphics group states based on the time their polls close. Here’s the problem: In states with multiple time zones, the eastern half will close an hour earlier than the western half — but the graphic shows all state polls closing at the later time. Voters living in the east may wrongly assume that they have an extra hour to make it to their voting precincts.

From Media Matters:

For example, according to the Florida Department of State’s “2008 Voter Registration and Voting Guide,” “Polls will be open on Election Day from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. local time.” Since Florida is split between the Eastern and Central time zones, polls close at 7 p.m. ET in some parts of the state and at 8 p.m. ET in other parts, not at 8 p.m. ET throughout the state, as the MSNBC graphic indicated. Likewise, according to the Michigan Secretary of State, polls in the state are “open from 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m,” but since the state is in two time zones, the majority of the state polls close at 8 p.m. ET, and the remainder close at 9 p.m. ET. But the MSNBC graphic suggested that all polls in the state close at 9 p.m. ET.

The affected states are: Florida, Michigan, Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota and Texas. Procrastinating voters in any of these states should not rely on MSNBC’s graphics when determining the last possible minute they can cast a vote.

As I type this, MSNBC put up another graphic before a commercial break, advising voters in these states to check with local election officials for the correct time their precinct closes.

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