Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Geek’s Guide to the Election 2012

November 6th, 2012, 5:20pm by Sam Wang

I’ve made a simple guide for tracking the election. It’s at geeks-guide-2012-b.pdf. My two pieces of advice are:

  • Ignore exit polls and large states.
  • Watch New Hampshire (expectation: Obama +3%) (CNN) (

I’ll use this post to list some resources. I’ll update this on the fly – check back now and then. Or leave your own in comments.

I actually don’t like Election Night that much – too much noise, not enough signal…and not nearly enough MATLAB. But should I liveblog anyway? Or more accurately, open a comment thread so you can liveblog…


Election returns: New York TimesCNN, Associated Press,

Presidential scenario trackers. Automatic tabulation of the victory scenarios for Obama and Romney. Web tools: app by  Kumars app by Cohen. If those don’t work, try this Excel file ElecVote2_revised (740 kb).

Early voting site (Mike McDonald).

Liveblogging by the human InTrade (Andrew Sullivan).

Recount rules from the Brennan Center for Justice.

NorCalGuy’s itinerary for the evening. A good assortment!

Feed your fears: Highest risk of E-voting meltdowns, at Freedom To Tinker (Ed Felten).

Sam Wang’s first predictions, Take 1 and Take 2, and a prediction challenge.

In case I am wrong about Minnesota, Pennsylvania, or Ohio: ThailandUnique.

What I care about for the new Congress: filibuster reform.

District and precinct level voting histories at the Stanford Election Atlas.

Tags: 2012 Election · President

135 Comments so far ↓

  • Fred Smit

    Ohio! FLORIDA ..

    Come on .. CALL IT NBC!

  • Jon V

    Is 3points outside the margins for NC?

  • Pat B

    Help. I’ve lost the link to this site. Is there an alternate title I should be using. You are my lifeline. Thanks for your help. I can get the Geek’s Guide but the Blogging thread was suddenly lost.

  • Paul Griner

    Khan, ChrisD and JohnV,

    Thanks for that info. Went out to get something to eat (and drink) to try and calm my nerves…

  • Shawn Huckaby

    Via twitter:


    RT@chrislhayes: So far the main theme is the results are looking like what the aggregated polls said.

  • Khan

    Nate Silver just reported that Romney is matching McCain’s performance in strong right wing county in Virginia–Chesterfield. Romney is nearly 10% below Bush when he won it in 2004.

    Also, Ari Fleischer is attacking Ohio exit polls showing huge Dem ID advantage.

  • Jon V

    Prince William and Fairfax county are important to Obama in VA. also VA Beach and surrounding area. I think he needs to win Prince William and Fairfax counties pretty big to win

  • Khan

    Angus King just won as an Independent to US Senate out of Maine.

    Bill Nelson just won his US Senate seat in Florida.

  • Dylan Wasserman

    Glad to see that Florida is close. Even if Romney wins it tells me that other states with a better economic situation may be looking good for Obama.

  • Khan

    A lot of states were just called. The usual suspects of course. Nothing out of the ordinary.

  • Khan

    Here we go.

    Everyone relax about Virginia, the BOE has delayed all reporting because of long lines. Also, the GOP counties report first.

  • Howard Roark

    The bigger story in Indiana is the Gov race! Looks like it’ll be a huge upset, no polls had it this close. John Gregg trailing by slim margin, with mostly rural vote in.

  • Froggy

    The Indiana Senate race is neck and neck so far. Does anyone have a sense about which way this one is going, based on the results already in?

    • Froggy

      And sooner do I write that than Donnelly jumps in the lead by 20,000 votes (4%).

    • Nicholas Warino

      Looks good for Donnelly. He’s leading while Obama is trailing by 13+. That’s likely to close a bit, which should push Donnelly’s margin up.

    • Michael

      I don’t know anything about Indiana in terms of who reports when, but Mourdock is running 10% behind Romney so far. That can’t be a good sign for God’s will.

  • American Liberal

    Dr. Wang, thanks for keeping us grounded in science and quantitative reasoning. I imagine the Founders of this republic would be proud.

    Right now, I guess, we are on the threshold of learning if the truth of things–and the respect for the truth of things–prevails or if our country has spiraled into some weird and inexplicable direction.

  • skmind

    OK, they reversed it, called it for Mitt.

  • Eagle's Splendor

    Go Team Nerd!!! :)

  • chris e

    Shit, it looks like VA is going towards Romney….ughhhhh

    • Sam Wang

      Too early to tell. I told you, we won’t know about VA until morning.

    • Lulu

      If I recall correctly, the more conservative counties get called first in VA, so I wouldn’t give up yet.

    • Matt McIrvin

      In 2008, McCain was leading the tabulated votes in Virginia until very late at night, because the many, many votes from Northern Virginia took a long time to come in.

    • Mike P

      Exactly. Check one of the sites showing county returns – almost all reporting so far are known deep red. Relax and keep the faith!

  • Lulu

    Not to sound too paranoid, but I would take any initial exit poll, especially any exit poll released by one of the parties with a huge grain of salt. The numbers sound realistic, but my guess is that it is much, much closer and they are just hoping that Democrat leaning voters become complacent and decide to stay home.

  • 538 Refugee

    Damned, keep hearing about the heavy turnout…. too early to dream about the house?

  • Nicholas Warino

    The county results we have so far aren’t straying to far from 2008. Some counties in Florida, SC, and Virginia have Obama performing better than 2008.

  • CobaltinSF

    Just finished poll watching duty in inner-city Miami precinct. Vote total in this precinct, 363 Obama and a whopping 4 for Romney. Let’s hope the rest of Miami is close to this….

  • 538 Refugee

    IF these are true exit polls and IF they are not weighted for early voting……..

  • Michael

    They can call a state as soon as polls close in that state. They won’t call the election until the polls close out west.

  • philly suburbs

    I thought they were not allowed to call states until all the polls close in California?

    • RocketDoctor

      Nah, if they waited until the last state voted they couldn’t announce anything until 1:00 am due to Alaska.

  • Michael

    Like Vermont, maybe?

  • Alex

    OMG – please do a liveblog!!

  • dp

    I live in MS. I feel your pain.

  • Barry

    I know we’re supposed to ignore exit polls but those look AWFULLY close to the final poll composites.

  • Marco

    I live in KY. CNN just called it ( at 7:02!) for Romney. No surprises, but sometimes I wish I lived somewhere else…

  • ThatSeattleGuy

    Noting for all I just sent Sam a new version (v1.5) of the Excel “Election Night Electoral Vote” tracking spreadsheet – it has some bug fixes and better formatting compared to the older (v1.1) version that he was offering for download. He says he can make it live in about an hour.

    In the meantime, the latest version is available on my server at the link above (click “ThatSeattleGuy”).

    Although I have to say I do really think the New York Times “Paths to the White House” page is a truly boffo piece of programming, and I’ll probably be using it myself instead.

    David R