ITHACA, N.Y. — In a dorm room — while munching on dry Chocolate Honey Bunches of Oats (because he was out of milk) — a 20-year-old Ithaca College student teamed up with a group of strangers to break the national news of Bernie Sanders’ caucus win in Hawaii.
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Alec Salisbury, a junior cinema and photography student, said that he is an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter who wanted an active way to keep up with the Washington, Alaska and Hawaii caucuses.
Immediately, he said people wanted to help him, but a few people began erroneously deleting or changing information in the document.
So Salisbury said he asked people interested in helping to email him for access to the document, cutting the number of helpers to about nine people, about three of whom stayed most helpful throughout the night.
Together they used social media to find out which precincts were reporting final voter numbers.
“It just kind of took off…like wildfire,” he said.
He said he’s not sure how many times the document was viewed, but thinks that because of all the publicity around reporting the final numbers, it must have been a lot.
“It had to have been hundred of thousands of people looking at it throughout the night,” he said.
Salisbury said he definitely did not expect such an interest in his document. But the people wanting results in real-time drove him to work on it for about 15 hours.
Why all the hard work?
“All these people are counting on me, so I might as well keep going,” he said, admitting that keeping the document updated was fun but tedious.
Salisbury said the group’s estimates were not as accurate in Washington because it was their first attempt to record the incoming precincts, and the state has thousands of them.
But in Alaska and Hawaii, he said, the group was dealing with just a few hundred precincts which made it easier for them to keep track of which ones were reporting final numbers.
In Alaska, the group was about six point inaccurate. But they took some down time to recuperate before Hawaii precincts began tallying up final votes.
In Hawaii — the group’s third attempt to keep track of state-wide results live — they were nearly exactly accurate.
The document predicted that Sanders won 69.68 percent over Hillary Clinton’s 30.32 percent.
The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that Sanders won the state 70 percent to Hillary’s 30 percent of the vote.
“I was honestly very surprised that we were this close in Hawaii,” he said.
Salisbury said he and the others who helped keep track of precincts will gather online again April 9 to cover the Wyoming caucus.
He said the best way to keep up with his coverage is at his @AlecPhoto Twitter handle. Other people to follow for results are listed in the Google document, he said.
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