Fox News aired graphics featuring inaccurate poll-closing times

Fox News aired graphics featuring inaccurate poll-closing times

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Fox News repeatedly aired graphics that purported to show "POLL CLOSINGS" in Eastern Standard Time for each state. But in states that cross time zones, the times listed in the graphics reflected the western-most time zone in the state, which could result in people watching Fox News in the eastern portion of some states being left with the impression that local polls would be open for an hour after they actually close.

During their Election Day coverage, Fox News repeatedly aired graphics that purported to show "POLL CLOSINGS" in Eastern Standard Time for each state. But in states that cross time zones, the times listed in the graphics reflected the western-most time zone in the state, in which polls close an hour later than the rest of the state. Thus, people watching Fox News in the eastern portion of some states could be left with the impression that local polls would be open for an hour after they actually close.

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 Fox News 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 Fox News graphic suggested that all polls in the state close at 9 p.m. ET.

Other states in multiple time zones include Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Texas.

According to Fox News' graphic, "POLL CLOSINGS" at 8 p.m. ET include Florida:

According to Fox News' graphic, "POLL CLOSINGS" at 9 p.m. ET include Michigan:

As Media Matters for America noted, earlier in the day, MSNBC Live continually aired a similar graphic that also could have misled potential voters -- even after NBC News political director Chuck Todd said of the graphic:

TODD: And a little guide to viewers. You see this ticker below talking about poll closing time. The time that you see is the last time that polls close in a state. There are a lot of states with split time zone, like Florida. We'll say that the polls close at 8 o'clock. Well, they close at 7 local. Eight o'clock in the Central time with Pensacola, but 7 p.m. Eastern in most of the rest of the state. That's the same with Indiana. It's 6 to 6, local. We encourage you, if you're confused about when your polls close, to go and check with your local polling officials, check your local polling places. They will obviously have the exact information you need. We want to tell our viewers when we'll start seeing vote counts, and that's why we have those final times up on our screen. So, if you need to know when your polls close, check with your local election official.

MSNBC has since stopped airing the inaccurate graphics.

Posted In
Elections, Voting Rights & Issues
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Stories/Interests
2008 Elections
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