Nov. 20, 2020

Best of the States

Using voters’ voices and hard data, AP analyzes Black support in Biden’s win

While there is little dispute that Black voters pushed Joe Biden into the presidential winner's column, AP wanted to know: How big of a factor were they?

Race and ethnicity writers Kat Stafford and Aaron Morrison began reporting on what Black voters said they wanted Biden to deliver once in office. Using the voices they collected as the foundation of the story, Stafford and Morrison teamed with data journalist Angeliki Kastanis and polling journalist Hannah Fingerhut, who infused the piece with data and voter survey findings that bolstered the anecdotes with hard numbers. 

Their collaboration put the AP days ahead of other news organizations’ pieces on Black voters’ support of Biden. For resourceful and insightful reporting and analysis on a major factor in the 2020 election, the team of Stafford, Morrison, Kastanis and Fingerhut wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Sept. 30, 2022

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP exposes candidate’s lies; upends one of the year’s most competitive congressional races

This AP exclusive started with a tip: A Republican nominee in Ohio had made questionable claims about his tenure in the Air Force.

J.R. Majewski told voters he was a combat veteran with a tour of duty in Afghanistan, but reporters Brian Slodysko and James LaPorta, joined by investigative researcher Randy Herschaft, reported extensively using public documents, expert interviews and a survey of former employers, revealing that among multiple misrepresentations, Majewski did not deploy to Afghanistan but instead spent six-months loading planes in Qatar. He was also demoted and barred from reenlisting.

The story was a hit with readers and had rival news outlets citing AP’s exclusive, while the Republican Party pulled its advertising money from Majewski, essentially giving up on his race.

For deep source work and dogged reporting that exposed a political candidate’s blatant lies about his record, Slodysko, LaPorta and Herschaft take AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner honors.

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Oct. 19, 2018

Best of the States

High-profile Georgia race focuses national attention on voter ID requirements

In the current political and media environment, it’s not often that a state politics story without President Donald Trump’s name in it drives a national political conversation for almost a week.

But that’s what happened when Atlanta-based newsperson Ben Nadler published a look at Georgia’s “exact match” voter registration verification process and other policies backed by Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Kemp, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, faces Democrat Stacey Abrams, vying to become the first black female governor of any state.

According to records obtained by Nadler from Kemps office through a public records request, 53,000 registrations – 70 percent of them from black applicants – were on hold with less than a month before the Nov. 6 election. Nadler also found that Kemp’s office has cancelled more than 1.4 million inactive voter registrations since 2012 – nearly 670,000 registrations in 2017 alone.

The story got tremendous play with AP customers over multiple news cycles and lit up social media.

For his deep look at a critical issue in Georgia’s high-stakes gubernatorial election and driving a national political discussion for days, Nadler wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 11, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

In exclusive AP interview, AG Barr says no evidence of widespread election fraud, undermining Trump

Justice Department reporter Mike Balsamo has spent months cultivating sources at the Department of Justice, earning a reputation as an objective journalist who reports fairly and accurately. 

His relationships paid off with an exclusive interview of U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in which Barr said the DOJ could find no evidence of widespread voting fraud, dramatically undercutting President Donald Trump’s insistence to the contrary.

“I knew ... he had made probably the biggest news he has in his tenure as AG,” said Balsamo. His story topped the news cycle and resonated for days. No other news outlet could match it and AP was widely cited for the scoop.

For persistent, evenhanded reporting on the Justice Department beat resulting in the interview that netted one of AP’s most consequential news coups of the year, Balsamo wins AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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March 13, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP Decision Desk caps stellar Super Tuesday with instant call: California for Sanders

On Super Tuesday afternoon, AP’s Stephen Ohlemacher and Emily Swanson were locked away in a conference room – isolated from their colleagues in the Washington bureau – reviewing incoming results from AP VoteCast. AP’s survey – developed to be more accurate than traditional exit polling – was already revealing what was about to happen on the biggest night of the Democratic presidential primary campaign.

The VoteCast data revealed trends in absentee voting and shifting preferences as Democratic candidates dropped out of the race, giving AP the evidence it needed to call California for Bernie Sanders as the state’s polls closed at 11:00 Eastern. News outlets relying on exit polls would not make that call for more than a week. 

Meanwhile, Seth Borenstein was crunching the numbers on the all-important delegate count, a task that required days of painstaking analysis of incomplete data to reach this conclusion: Joe Biden won more delegates on Super Tuesday than did Sanders.

Like the Caliofornia race call, news of Biden’s delegate victory rocketed around the world. 

For completing in-depth, accurate analysis of election data on deadline, enabling AP to tell the complete story of Super Tuesday before all others, Swanson, Ohlemacher and Borenstein win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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July 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: California rejected 100,000 botched mail-in ballots

obtained state data showing 102,000 mail ballots for California’s March presidential primary were rejected for lateness or other mistakes. In his exclusive report, Blood showed that mail-in voting can be fraught with problems at a time when the pandemic is driving many states to gear up for near-universal vote-by-mail in November, and as President Trump casts doubt on the system’s validity. The story played widely online and The New York Times flagged the story on its live election briefing. https://bit.ly/2BmTfoF

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Sept. 16, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP finds deep support for election lies among GOP candidates

worked with statehouse reporters across the U.S. to highlight just how many election deniers are seeking statewide offices that play a role in overseeing, certifying or defending elections.Democracy team reporter Riccardi and his colleagues found nearly one in three Republicans running for governor, secretary of state or attorney general have echoed former President Donald Trump’s lies about widespread fraud costing him reelection, according to the AP review. Only 40% would acknowledge that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president.Graphic artist Duckett formatted the data for a series of interactives embedded in the story, which made headlines and found an audience even while much of the media was focused on the death of Queen Elizabeth II.Read more

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Sept. 03, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Breaches of voting software raise election security concerns

broke the news that copies of confidential software for a widely used voting machine had been released publicly during an event held by supporters of former President Donald Trump, leading to wider concerns about election security.After a local elections clerk in Colorado leaked confidential information about her county’s voting machines, Cassidy, an Atlanta-based state government reporter, began calling her sources to get a sense of what the breach could mean for other states that used the same voting machines produced by Dominion Voting Systems. Her source reporting uncovered yet another leak, this time in a county in Michigan where Trump allies had challenged his election loss. The software copies ended up being distributed publicly at a symposium hosted by the CEO of MyPillow, Mike Lindell, a major Trump supporter who has helped spread his lies of election fraud.The software leak from Antrim County, Michigan, had not previously been reported until Cassidy learned of it. Election security experts said taken together, the leaked software could provide hackers with a “practice environment” to probe for vulnerabilities in Dominion machines, which are used in 30 states. https://aplink.news/kj8

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Oct. 21, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Ahead of Social Security increase, AP anticipates reader questions

teamed up two months ago on coverage of an expected Social Security cost-of-living increase. In the current economic climate, they anticipated — correctly — the story would have strong audience appeal and would require a range of user-friendly explanatory journalism that would also capture the circumstances and voices of people across the U.S.The result was a week of in-depth all-formats coverage on the jump in benefits. From an overview of how Social Security works to the potential impact on inflation and the midterm elections to on-camera interviews with recipients, the AP team explored and explained the benefits boost from all angles.Read more

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March 15, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Twin Texas scoops: UT fires former football star; GOP governor packing courts

for breaking two completely unrelated Texas scoops: that the University of Texas had fired former star quarterback Vince Young from his part-time job as an ambassador and development officer for the school, and for reporting that after barely three months after Democrats showed signs of cracking Republican dominance in state elections, Gov. Greg Abbott used the power of his office to appoint GOP judges who had been rejected by voters to new positions on the bench.https://bit.ly/2J6ZNe3https://bit.ly/2TB5fe3

Sept. 09, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reports on election deniers and the people who believe them

teamed up on a revealing story about the influence of conspiracy theories on countless Republicans across the country. Election administration reporter Cassidy researched the “Nebraska Election Integrity Forum,” determining the event was indeed part of the election conspiracy movement. Omaha reporter Beck and freelance photographer covered the event, engaging with attendees even as one prominent speaker complained about journalists who are “election fraud deniers.”The result was a comprehensive look at those who are continuing to peddle lies about the nation’s elections and the people who fervently believe those lies. The story also described how violence is woven into the conspiracies — from statements about civil war to calls for putting certain election officials before firing squads. The piece engaged readers online and landed on more than a dozen front pages.Read more

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Dec. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive: $200M fund for opioid treatment sits unused

broke the news that a $200 million fund intended to help opioid addicts has been sitting unused for more than a year. Mulvihill has maintained his sourcing and has followed various opioids cases, even during a year focused on the coronavirus and U.S. elections. His attention to the opioids beat paid off with an exclusive story revealing that as part of its bankruptcy case, Purdue Pharma had set aside $200 million to help local communities and nonprofits serve people addicted to opioids. Yet more than a year after the fund was established, not a penny had been spent because state attorneys general and lawyers representing local governments couldn’t agree on who should be in charge of distributing the money. Advocates for addiction treatment were outraged. One lawyer representing overdose victims called it “a tragedy of epic proportions” that the money had not been spent. Portraits by Richmond, Virginia, photographer Steve Helber, of a woman who lost her twin brother to addiction, complemented the story. https://bit.ly/3lF6rX0

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June 10, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Data reporting shows partisan strategy in US primary voting

relied on voting data available to the AP to demonstrate how some Democrats were voting in Republican primaries in an effort to block candidates backed by former President Donald Trump.National political reporter Peoples and data journalist Kessler had found that an unusually high number of people who voted in Georgia’s 2020 Democratic primary cast ballots in this year’s GOP primary. The pair learned that some Democrats were so worried an election denier backed by Trump could become secretary of state and ultimately run Georgia’s elections, they decided to cross party lines in the primary to support incumbent Brad Raffensperger, who famously resisted Trump’s pressure to overturn the 2020 election results.The result is a perfect blend of traditional political reporting and data analysis that tells a broader story about unusual decisions voters are making in an effort to protect democracy in the U.S.Read more

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Oct. 02, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP pauses to get story of ‘discarded’ Trump ballots right

resisted competitive pressure, holding off on a Department of Justice press release on an investigation into “discarded” military ballots for President Donald Trump, instead taking the time to do a more deeply reported story.Most media rushed to publish when a U.S. attorney in the battleground state of Pennsylvania took the unusual step of announcing the ongoing investigation, saying nine mail-in ballots for the president had been “cast aside” in a county elections office. The county manager later blamed the incident on confusion over the appearance of the envelopes, but conservative social media quickly seized on the initial announcement while the Trump campaign blamed Democrats for “trying to steal the election.”The original press release, however, was short on details and no one, federal or local, was talking. Pennsylvania news editor Christina Paciolla brought the story to the attention of AP’s voting team, and a deeper examination began.The AP drew on expertise across the organization to produce a far more well-informed story the following day, providing essential context and new information, including the U.S. attorney defending his announcement of the votes for Trump, and that Attorney General William Barr had previously briefed the president on the case. https://bit.ly/3if2LJZ

Sept. 16, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP/‘Frontline’: Michael Flynn building Christian nationalist movement

teamed up with PBS “Frontline” on a deeply reported all-formats investigative package revealing how retired lieutenant general and former national security adviser Michael Flynn has used public appearances, endorsements and a network of well-funded groups to build a movement centered on Christian nationalist ideas.Smith spoke with more than 60 people, from Flynn’s family and friends to his opponents, examined dozens of Flynn’s speeches, interviews and other appearances, reviewed campaign finance records, corporate and charity filings, social media posts, as well as attending Flynn events. She also landed a rare interview with the retired three-star general — the footage edited by AP investigative video journalist Roosblad — and spent two days reporting on the ReAwaken America tour in upstate New York, along with photographer Kaster and a “Frontline” crew.The joint AP/“Frontline” reporting found Flynn deliberately and systematically driving a far-right political narrative with the goal of influencing elections this year and beyond.Read more

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Jan. 21, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals constitutional challenge to ’Big Lie’ candidates

landed a scoop with impact: Voting reform groups were preparing constitutional challenges against the candidacy of GOP members of Congress who supported the Jan. 6 uprising or attempts to overturn President Joe Biden’s win.Just days after the Jan. 6 anniversary, Robertson, AP Raleigh, North Carolina, statehouse reporter, received a tip from an advocacy group that its first target would be Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., challenging his candidacy in 2022 by citing a portion of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, originally used to bar Confederates who took up arms during the Civil War. Other members of Congress who have supported efforts to overturn the 2020 election would be subject to similar challenges.Robertson conducted interviews and used his connections with a former state Supreme Court attorney to ensure he got immediate word of the complaint being filed with the State Board of Elections. His story, written in advance, moved within minutes of the confirmation, quickly amassing an impressive 176,000 social media views. It was credited in media outlets from Raleigh’s News & Observer to People magazine, and was cited in a Washington Post opinion piece.The story drew more attention after a producer for ”The Rachel Maddow Show“ emailed it to a colleague while accidentally copying Cawthorn’s office, prompting the conservative congressman to lash out at MSNBC. https://aplink.news/8xa

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April 15, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP dominates French election coverage with nimble live video

used sharp planning and fast election day pivots to put AP well ahead of the competition, delivering unmatched live and edited video coverage of the first round of France's presidential election — a vote with implications for Europe’s future.As the election unfolded Sunday, senior producer Schaeffer recognized leading French broadcasters heavily using AP’s morning live feed from voting stations. Seeing the demand, he and the team quickly committed to live coverage throughout the day. That usage by French broadcasters was particularly telling: They chose AP over their own coverage — and crucially, over AP’s major French competitor, a tribute to the broad, balanced coverage which dominated AP’s live offerings throughout the day.Read more

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Oct. 14, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reports real-world impact of gerrymandering; SCOTUS hears case

teamed up on a timely package examining racial gerrymandering and how it disenfranchises thousands of Black voters in Alabama.With the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments in a case challenging the state’s Republican-drawn maps, and redistricting likely to factor into the 2022 midterm elections, AP journalists used on-the ground reporting, data analysis and experience at the high court to shine a light on the consequences of Alabama’s highly gerrymandered districts.The result was a timely all-formats package on how the cynical practice has largely robbed Black residents in Alabama of their political voice.Read more

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