Broadcaster suffers bout of premature prognostication

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A surprisingly early declaration of a winner in the mayoral race, a retraction and then a lengthy wait for vote counts from the last half-dozen city polling stations made things confusing for some Winnipeggers trying to follow Wednesday evening’s civic election results.

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A surprisingly early declaration of a winner in the mayoral race, a retraction and then a lengthy wait for vote counts from the last half-dozen city polling stations made things confusing for some Winnipeggers trying to follow Wednesday evening’s civic election results.

Shortly before 9 p.m. — less than an hour after polls closed — CTV Winnipeg declared Glen Murray the winner on its live TV coverage and on its website. After about a half-hour, the broadcaster pivoted, indicating the race results were “undetermined.”

It then took until 10:07 p.m. for the city to post results from its last few polling stations to settle the close race, clearing away confusion and confirming Scott Gillingham as the city’s mayor-elect.

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Shortly before 9 p.m. — less than an hour after polls closed — CTV Winnipeg declared Glen Murray the winner on its live TV coverage and on its website.

A University of Manitoba political scientist said election-night projections can be tricky, and mistakes have happened in the past.

“There have been situations in which national networks have made mistakes,” said Christopher Adams who, nevertheless, could not recall a similar occurrence after any other City of Winnipeg election.

It was an unfortunate error for Murray and his supporters, Adams said.

“You feel very badly for those who first thought they had won the election and then they didn’t. Very quickly, it switched around as the suburban votes started to come in,” he said.

The CTV coverage also included a graphic with Gillingham’s picture, which labelled him “defeated.”

CTV News Winnipeg provided a written statement to apologize for the error on Thursday.

“During last night’s municipal election coverage, we incorrectly called the mayoral race early in favour of Glen Murray. While our decision desk followed our usual rigorous process, we got it wrong. While this error was corrected as soon as we became aware, some of our viewers may have missed the update as it was part of our digital broadcast. We deeply regret this error, and apologize to our viewers, Mayor (elect) Scott Gillingham, and Mr. Murray,” the statement said.

Adams said he’s not sure what factors might have led to the error. He did note many folks had expected results would be available soon after polls closed.

“I think people were expecting a faster sense of where things were (going),” he said.

While some Winnipeggers took to Twitter to complain about an apparent delay in the last few poll results being shared, the city’s senior election official said that timeline was not unusual.

“I think people just noticed more because it was a closer race… and everyone’s watching,” said Marc Lemoine. “We’ve always somewhere in that range (of) getting the last few polls out somewhere between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.”

People following past election returns likely didn’t notice how long the last few polls took to count because larger margins of victory allow news organization prognosticators to declare winners before the final results arrive, he said.

There was a wait for digital memory devices and documents to be driven in from the last few voting machines after some of the correct materials were missed during an initial trip, Lemoine said. However, he said it’s not unusual for that to happen for a small number of polling stations and the information is needed to ensure the results are accurate.

“We’re much more about the accuracy and veracity… of the results, rather than the speed of them,” he said.

The city released the final poll results by 9:58 p.m. in 2018, he said.

Joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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