A television station in Illinois broadcast results from the Joe Biden–Bernie Sanders Democratic Primary contest on Monday–the day before the actual election was scheduled to occur.
Paris, Illinois resident Sherry Daugherty noted the discrepancy in a widely-shared and commented upon Facebook post.
“While watching The Price is Right our station accidentally runs tomorrow’s election results,” she said. “It’s Monday our election in Illinois is tomorrow.”
— Karen Bethany James Winn (@bethanyjameswin) March 16, 2020
Local CBS affiliate WCIA ran the graphic showing Biden leading on 50 percent of the vote with 986,341 votes. Sanders had 45 percent of the vote in the WCIA graphic with 893,249 votes.
After Daugherty’s post and other viewer-captured videos of the pre-results were shared, the network immediately caught an intense amount of flak online. Suggestions of vote-rigging and electoral fraud.
“Illinois station broadcasts the pre-rigged election results day before the election (Biden 50% Bernie 45%),” noted one viral Twitter post by Bethany James Winn. “#ElectionFraud.”
“Illinois released the results of tomorrow’s Primary a day before….” reads the caption of the post shared by popular progressive meme page Unofficial: DNC.
“It was an ‘accident’, showing Biden winning,” another Facebook user drily noted. “Oopsie-doopsies (not).”
The term “conspiracy” was sardonically/quickly trotted out.
Then why not have a disclaimer "This is only a test?" https://t.co/SXVwG7Z68z
— Esha (@eshaLegal) March 16, 2020
“For all my conspiracy minded folks, here’s an Illinois TV station accidentally reporting the final election results of TOMORROWS primary TODAY!” another Facebook user said. “Why, it’s almost like our elections, our media, and our democracy are all just illusions held in place to keep us in line.”
WCIA reporter Mark Maxwell later reached out to Daugherty about the incident–insisting the graphic was simply a “test.”
“We do routine test rehearsals before every election to make sure the graphics work properly and to give directors some practice,” Maxwell said. “The error was in putting the dry run on air. That shouldn’t have happened and we’re looking into it.”
“Obviously, we never intended to give the wrong information or wrong impression,” he continued–pleading with Daugherty to include his explanation. “None of those numbers were based on any real polling returns. Since your post is being widely shared, I’d appreciate it if you would consider updating the original post so people don’t get the wrong idea.”
WCIA News Director Rich Flesch also reached out to Daugherty after her post garnered substantial traction and outrage on social media.
“Sorry it was an error by our team,” he said. “We are currently doing election rehearsals with test data and not intended to go on TV. We apologize for any inconvenience.“
Law and policy expert and attorney Esha Krishnaswamy also shared the video on Twitter–with critical comments about the incident.
Law&Crime reached out for additional comment from Krishnaswamy about the apparent snafu in the Land of Lincoln.
“It doesn’t matter who is responsible for it, why it happened or whether it was an accident or not,” she said. “What matters is that there is no government agency in America that ensures fair standards and election rules we can trust. If this was really a test, there was no reason they had to use actual candidates. They could use drawings, fake candidates, fictional things and warned before and after that it was a test.”
“The entire thing points to one conclusion: our governing class has more interest in maintaining a spectacle of democracy than actual democracy.”