News Analysis: The experience of an AP election stringer for the presidential primaries  

The Associated Press designates representatives to be at the heart of the action on election night in order to provide real time results for the recent presidential primaries. 

In a journalistic context, the representative is known as a stringer. A stringer is a freelance worker who provides reporting, photos, or videos to a news organization, often being paid for each piece that gets published. However, instead of turning in photos or news stories, an election stringer provides updates as results come in on election night. Election stringers are also called “vote count reporters,” because while they do not count the votes (things in that regard are handled by election board workers), stringers report the number of votes that have been counted. 

The most well-known organization that hires election stringers is the Associated Press, which not only does its own fact-based reporting, but also provides statistics to its member organizations. The most prevalent use of these statistics is when it comes to national political office elections. 

It makes sense to have one organization find out what the numbers are and then share them with news companies instead of each company having to send people to gather their own statistics. It saves time and money for news organizations. Plus, hopefully, various news outlets are giving the same information, at least number-wise. 

The fact that a lot of organizations rely on the Associated Press also makes it important that the AP gets the numbers right. This is done by using electronic data from official state online sources and the updates given by election stringers in each county. 

Typically, election stringers are people with some connection to the journalism field, or college students in that general sphere. College students are often an ideal choice because of their slightly more flexible schedule and proclivity for staying up late. TCC Connection staff members were informed of this chance to work for the AP by the Connection’s faculty advisor, Dr. Jerry Goodwin, who often passes along journalism-related job opportunities to his students. 

As one of the Connection employees who accepted this opportunity (Chase Goza, Blake Sullivan, and Avery Higgs were the others), I was introduced to Reid Magney, stringer coordinator for Oklahoma for the AP. He briefs the election stringers for their jobs on election night before they go out to all the counties in Oklahoma.  

As directed, I arrived at the Tulsa County Election Board office shortly before the polls closed on March 5, the day Oklahoma (and many other states) held the presidential primary election. After checking in, I was shown to a meeting room area that had a small TV where the results would be shown. As there was some down time before the polls closed at 7 p.m. (and then some time after that while waiting for the voting machines from each precinct to be brought into the election board office), I talked with the election board officials who were there. 

By 7:15 p.m., I was calling in with the first results that were reported on the TV. Every time the page was refreshed, the numbers changed as more votes were counted, so I needed to call the AP again.  

The election results were broadcast on TV in a meeting room so election board members and vote count reporters could see the numbers as they were provided. You can view the results of the March 5 primaries here. (Photo courtesy of Tulsa County Election Board website)

As the votes were counted, the percentage of precincts in Tulsa County that had reported their numbers, (top right corner) increased. By the end of the night, all 251 precincts had submitted their results. (Photo courtesy of Tulsa County Election Board website.)

Each time I called, I spoke to a vote entry clerk who led the conversation and asked for the specific number of votes recorded for each candidate. I also reported what percentage of precincts in Tulsa County had their votes reported. The clerk then entered those results in the AP’s online vote recording system. 

Tulsa County’s results were in before 10 p.m., which was quicker than I expected. (I had been told to plan on being there until 11 p.m.) After reporting the final numbers for the night, and checking on the number of outstanding ballots, I got to head home! 

Overall, the experience of working as an election stringer was informative and interesting. I enjoyed helping with the electoral process in a nonpartisan way. 

To learn more about the Associated Press and its election coverage, visit

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