Where to Get Live Election Night Coverage Online

Update: We wrote a more extensive, updated guide to where to watch live election coverage.

The 2008 election and online video have had a lot of special moments together: The CNN-YouTube primary debates. Obama Girl. Will.i.am‘s “Yes We Can.” Saturday Night Live’s “Fey-lin” skits. And even though those examples might lean to the left, online video isn’t just a liberal thing. Both the Obama and McCain campaigns have active YouTube accounts, and in September, the McCain account had nearly three times as many average views per video as its rival’s. And no fewer than nine outlets offered live online video of the presidential debates.

But those were simply viral videos and two-hour events coming straight from the official debate stream. For election night, the fun starts early and could continue all night. There will be red and blue states to call, voter fraud to police, polling lines to record, partisan parties to tune into, and pundits, pundits, pundits. For those who want more detail, perspective or partisanship than TV broadcasts offer — or for the election-obsessive looking to build a multi-platform election night command center — we’ve sniffed out a few of the election night options to choose from.

Traditional media

Don’t trust the talking heads to do your election analysis? Try your hand at crunching the numbers. TV networks and newspapers will be offering frequently updated maps and data for your perusal online.

On Election Day, ABC News will offer livestreams of its own newscast, the scene at both the McCain and Obama campaigns’ headquarters, and a stream of roving reporters in battleground states. It will also offer a live results map, searchable exit polling data, liveblogging and results via SMS. CBS News will be offering county-by-county results updated every minute, liveblogging, as well as a simulcast of its TV coverage, starting at 6:30 p.m. EDT. Around 2 a.m. EDT, Katie Couric will host a live webcast on CBSNews.com and CNET.com to address participants’ questions.

There are also also plenty of tools on the cable networks’ sites. MSNBC in particular has a trove of tech tools, including blogger widgets. We really liked its vote tally interface-plus-live stream for the Super Tuesday primary, which displayed tons of information in one place.

The New York Times will also offer online video updates every half hour from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. EDT with reports from Times political correspondents. These days, the newspaper’s site is a powerhouse of infographics (and we don’t mean static USA Today pie charts), and it will continue to offer up interactive graphs and maps on election night.

Partisan punditry
If you’re looking for election-night coverage by and for people like you, there are plenty of sites to turn to. The left-leaning blog Talking Points Memo, for instance, has really thrived this election season, raking in a record 16.3 million YouTube video views in September. For its election night coverage, the site will be livestreaming (most likely using the cell phone-based service Qik) from Obama’s Chicago headquarters, and providing live election results via a map created in partnership with Google. It will also be liveblogging and posting TV news clips that it tapes from network TV. But political parties aren’t the only interest groups. Terra.com, for instance, will offer live video reporting focused on Latinos in both Spanish and English.

Whatever your political flavor, you can track hot stories and analysis in the blogosphere on Mememorandum, the political sister site of TechMeme. If you install the site’s cool Greasemonkey script, you can see a red and blue overlay on links, indicating stories from conservative and liberal bloggers, respectively. Memeorandum tells us it will be increasing the speed with which items rotate off its site so that the newest news and analysis can dominate as they change throughout election night.

Enticing the youth vote

Social networks have a special opportunity to tie this momentous political occasion into normal online activity, especially for young people. MySpace’s plans are still in the works, but it will most likely air a live stream of MSNBC’s coverage on its MySpace Decision08 page. That’ll come alongside a live-updating map, text and video blogging by the MySpace Impact team and celebrities, and user-generated video. MySpace set up its own live stream of the debates and pulled pretty impressive numbers: more than 500,000 live streams and 1.2 million unique visitors.

Facebook doesn’t offer live video, but the site plans to add a prominent prompt, asking users if they’ve voted yet. For those who cop to voting, Ben & Jerry’s will be offering free cones, and Facebook’s news feeds will tell users which of their friends have voted. Facebook says it sent in more than 50,000 voter registration applications from its members, and it has more than half a million people confirming that they will vote. The site is an Obama stronghold, with nearly 2.3 million members registered as his supporters at this writing, compared with slightly more than 600,000 for McCain.

Make your own media

PBS and YouTube are encouraging voters to make videos of their Election Day experiences, and maybe even catch some voter fraud while they’re at it. (Not that anyone’s rooting for that.) However, using cameras at polling places is illegal in some states, so be sure to check the laws where you live.

The Personal Democracy Forum’s techPresident is also pulling together a “Twitter Vote Report,” effectively a citizen-created national exit poll that combines “tweets” about users’ voting experiences into a cohesive interface. Twitter, the microblogging service that’s starting to hit the mainstream, is the new shorthand for citizen journalism, and it’s made its way onto C-SPAN, Current TV and CNN during this election cycle. Current aired some 3,000 tweets per debate, but it hasn’t (yet) announced any plans to display tweets alongside its election night coverage.

As long as you’re watching video coverage, parsing through online maps and graphs and posting reports on your own voting experience, why not turn on the radio too? It’s the original live broadcast. NPR, for one, plans to be on air (and on the web) from 8 p.m to 5 a.m. EDT, with more than 100 journalists reporting on the election.

Image credit: CNN.

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