Well, that was awkward. Or strangely prophetic. Only time will tell.
In recent days, a Republican candidate for Florida House District 86, Laurel Bennett, was somewhat surprised to discover that a local West Palm Beach NBC affiliate, WPTV, was reporting that she had already lost her race, despite the fact that not a single ballot has been counted yet. Allegedly.
The report from the local affiliate showed Laurel getting 45 percent of the ballot, or 12,189 votes. In response to the report, Laurel took to Facebook to warn her supporters about what was happening:
“Election fraud is already taking place here in Palm Beach County! WPTV is posting election results, today, when the race is Tuesday! Please spread the word and contact everyone you know to vote Bennett on Tuesday! I have a snapshot of it! End corruption in Palm Beach! It begins with you, the voter!”
Needless to say, Palm Beach is notoriously liberal, or at least its newspaper, The Palm Beach Post, is.
Bennett is not the only victim of this kind of scandal. Tinu Pena, a Democrat who got hold of Bennett and told her about the “election results,” said that the station had done the same thing to her when it prematurely announced she had lost a primary to her Democratic rival, Matt Willhite, according to Biz Pac Review.
What in the world?
On its website, the station acknowledged the bogus results and claimed that it had merely been testing its software.
“In order to make sure we bring you fast and accurate election results on election day, we are testing our election page ahead of time with test data,” the disclaimer said. “On election day, this message will be removed and the actual election results will be displayed on this page.”
In an interview with Biz Pac Review, Bennett said that after making the discovery she had to call the station four times before they had a website editor or technician go in and delete the “election results.” She reportedly even asked station management to use fake candidate names if they were going to be posting phony results, but the station said it would not do that.
WPTV’s director of new media, Eric Weiss, told Biz Pac Review that the fake election results on candidates running in state and national elections that are utilized for testing purposes are actually provided to the station by – and are under the control of – The Associated Press. For this reason, he said, the station could not change the data or the names. He also said that tests are conducted for up to one hour per day, three days a week on average, in the weeks leading up to elections, to ensure that the software is operational. It was just coincidental that Bennett’s Google inquiry came during one of the testing periods.
Surely the AP and WPTV wouldn’t be trying to influence an election in favor of a particular party – would they?