How might reporters covering close elections anywhere learn from this race?

Don’t always trust the initial election results that you see, and make sure that they add up. Use whatever tools you have to identify possible discrepancies in the data. Those tools can include your own math skills, past election returns, and it can very possibly include your followers on social media who are capable of crowd-sourcing data and flagging possible errors much more comprehensively than one person can. I was going through this precinct-by-precinct, but I also had followers on Twitter whose names I don’t even know who were going through the state, combing through and identifying errors that I then catalogued into one Google document.

Had you not been involved, do you think the election would have turned out differently or would everything eventually have been all smoothed out?

It would have been figured out eventually. However, it would not have been brought to light as quickly. There may have been more questions from skeptical members of the public about the ways that election officials were changing their totals of votes, and it also might not have been unearthed until a recount, which would have generated a series of lawsuits.

The moment that drove all of this home for me―it was Wednesday night I believe, I received an email from a member of Governor McDonnell’s administration. And I was expecting that email to take me to task for shaming election officials for getting it wrong. Instead it said thank you, and we’re following up on your catalog with the state board of elections. So that went to show me that members of the bureaucracy in charge of counting votes are indeed paying attention to Twitter and social media.

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Corey Hutchins is CJR's correspondent for Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. A former alt-weekly staffer, he has twice been named journalist of the year in the weekly division by the S.C. Press Association. Hutchins recently worked on the State Integrity Investigation at the Center for Public Integrity, and he has contributed to Slate, The Nation, and Medium, among others. Follow him on Twitter @coreyhutchins or email him at coreyhutchins@gmail.com.