Laurel Bennet, a Republican candidate for Florida House district 86, got a rude awakening Saturday morning when a Democratic candidate running in the same race informed her that West Palm Beach NBC affiliate WPTV posted the results of the primary election — three days before the actual primary.
The station’s website reported that Bennett garnered 12,189 votes in her primary bid against Stuart Mears, giving her just 45 percent of the vote, according to a Google search of her name along with “election results,” Louisville, Kentucky Fox affiliate WDRB reported.
No need to go to the polls Tuesday, folks. WPTV has the results all figured out.
Bennett reported the gaffe on her Facebook page.
“Election fraud is already taking place here in Palm Beach County!” the candidate said. “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!”
The search came up with the result, “WPTV Election Results | West Palm Beach News, South Florida Breaking news, … R Laurel Bennett, 45%, 12,189”
Tinu Pena, the Democrat who informed Bennett of the “election results,” told Bennett that the station did the same thing with her primary “results” — it announced that she’d lost to her Democratic rival Matt Willhite.
The station’s website acknowledged that it posted bogus election results, and added a disclaimer.
“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.”
Bennett told BizPac Review that when she made the discovery, she had to phone WPTV four times before they would delete the “election results.” She’d even asked the station to use bonus candidate names if they were going to give bogus results. The station declined.
Eric Weiss, WPTV director of new media, informed BizPac Review that the bogus election data on candidates running in state and national elections that are used for test purposes are provided by and under the control of The Associated Press.
The station can’t change the data or the names, Weiss said.
He advised that these tests are conducted for an hour per day, generally three days a week, in the weeks leading up to each election. It was simply bad luck that Bennett happened to enter her Google search at one of the times the test was being conducted.
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