2382: Ballot Tracker Tracker
|Ballot Tracker Tracker|
Title text: Good luck to Democrats in the upcoming Georgia runoff elections, and to the Google Sheets SREs in the current run-on elections.
| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a BALLOT TRACKER TRACKER TRACKER. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.|
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This comic was posted 3 days after the 2020 election day in the United States (November 3, 2020). As of the date of posting, the 2020 United States presidential election, between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, still had not been "called" for either candidate by most news outlets. This was atypical for most US presidential elections, which were "called" either on election day or on the morning following.
A major reason for the delay in deciding the results of the election was the greatly increased use of mail-in ballots, caused by social distancing concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mail-in ballots in some states were counted after the in-person voting, which caused delays in the vote-counting.
As of the date of posting, the electoral vote counts - as called by most major news organizations - were 253-214 in favor of Biden, with 270 electoral votes needed to win the election. Six states were considered "too close to call", with no determined winner until more ballots were counted. Biden was winning the popular vote by about 4 million.
Cueball in this comic has created an app, doc, or website that tracks in real time how quickly "ballot trackers" update. A ballot tracker is a web page provided by a news organization that reports updated vote counts as they are published by the states. The news organizations use these counts as the major input to the "decision desks", which are their staff who analyze the ongoing vote results to decide when to declare a projected winner for a state. (See "Tracking Which News Outlets Have Called the Presidential Race in Each State") Cueball (representing Randall) is anxiously awaiting resolution to the long election season. He is not only anxiously checking to see if the race has been decided, he is also predicting how close the race is to being decided by constantly checking the ballot trackers to see how they change, as well as keeping track of which sources of tracking information most quickly show updated information on which to base those predictions.
The last line of dialogue in the comic, where Cueball says, "I will breathe when they call it", may refer to the idea that many people "hold their breath" when waiting for an important result, so people may hold their breath until the Presidential race is called. However, since this time around the announcement could have taken days if not weeks longer, literally holding one's breath until the winner was announced would not be possible. As it happens, the election was called for Biden the morning after this comic was published, about 3½ days after the election, although Trump was still attempting to challenge the results in court, which would make holding one's breath until all appeals and recounts are complete an even worse idea than if he had conceded.
In the title text, Randall wishes good luck to the Democrats in the state of Georgia who are running in later run-off elections. Two Senate seats were being voted on in the state of Georgia in 2020, but no candidate achieved over 50% of the vote in either race. It is highly likely that these runoffs will determine control of the Senate. By law in the state of Georgia, these two races will be decided in "runoff" elections, where the top two candidates from each of the races run against only each other, on January 5, 2021. Randall also wishes good luck to the SREs (Site Reliability Engineers) of Google Sheets, an online spreadsheet program, who are in charge of maintaining the Google infrastructure while people like him are constantly refreshing their sheets and pulling data. Randall is comparing Georgia's upcoming "runoff" election to the current election, calling it a "run-on" for how long it is taking.
The theme of recursive naming is a recurring one in xkcd, most recently with the "contact tracer tracing program" in 2376: Curbside.
- [Cueball is sitting behind a desk, pointing at a laptop. White Hat is standing behind him. Crumpled up papers are strewn across the ground. ]
- Cueball: And this tab is my ballot tracker tracker, which tracks how quickly other ballot trackers update.
- White Hat: You should add a tracker for how often you breathe so you don't forget.
- Cueball: I will breathe when they call it.
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