For many years David Brinkley was the news co-host with Chet Huntley on NBC. He also had a weekly radio program called David Brinkley’s Journal, on which he discussed news items.
A week or so following the 1964 elections I happened to catch his program and he made a comment that has stuck with me ever since and comes to mind every election.
He and Huntley had covered the election way into the morning and he had gotten home late. After he had had only a few hours sleep, his phone rang and he picked it up. A voice said, “Who won the election?” Brinkley asked the caller if he had been on the moon, because everyone knew it had been Johnson by a landslide. The caller then replied, “That is all based on projections and exit polls, not one vote was counted.”
Brinkley said he was about to slam the phone down when he realized it was true. He then commented that it scared him. Not a vote was counted and we had elected a president and a lot of other people.
He went on quite a bit about the danger of what had just happened and the need to be sure before announcing the results of an election.
The same thing scares me.
In that election states were given to candidates when the polls were still open there. They don’t, or at least are not supposed to, do that anymore, but on Election Night all of the networks gave California to candidates at about one minute after the polls closed – before any votes had been reported.
Brinkley commented that it would be easy to steal an election because of this. I agree.