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VNS polls give way

TV networks' hopes of recovering some of the credibility lost over missed and
premature calls in the 2000 elections saw the bar pushed higher when their
election information consortium, Voter News Service, concluded that its exit
polls were unreliable and would not be released.

That missing information made it much harder to project winners before huge
percentages of votes were counted as polls around the country closed, virtually
promising a longer wait until winners are determined, although those
determinations will be more likely based on real, rather than projected,

VNS is a consortium of major media players ABC, CBS, NBC, Cable News Network,
Fox and the Associated Press, and it provides information from both actual votes
and exit polls in key precincts.

The 2002 elections were to be a midpoint in the rebuilding of VNS in the wake
of the 2000 debacle. After that election, VNS embarked on an embarrassing $10
million to $15 million overhaul of its system and networks revamped their
election-night reporting procedures and standards of proof.

As far back as August, VNS members warned that there could be problems with
the numbers.

As of last Friday, Broadcasting & Cable reported, there were
lingering glitches in the system, so much so that CBS and NBC jointly
commissioned a backup poll in case it was needed. It looked Tuesday night as
though it would be needed.