Sometimes, the multitude of information and data that floods the airwaves on Election Day can be too overwhelming to keep track of.
During MSNBC's coverage today, according to Media Matters, the cable news network continually aired "graphics that purported to show "POLL CLOSING" times for each state. But in states that cross over time zones, the times listed in the graphics reflected the western-most time zone in the state, in which polls close an hour later than the rest of the state. Thus, people watching MSNBC in the eastern portion of some states could be left with the impression that local polls would be open for an hour after they actually close."
According to Media Matters:
For example, according to the Florida Department of State's "2008 Voter Registration and Voting Guide," "Polls will be open on election day from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. local time." Since Florida is split between the Eastern and Central time zones, polls close at 7 p.m. ET in some parts of the state and at 8 p.m. ET in other parts, not at 8 p.m. ET throughout the state, as the MSNBC graphic indicated. Likewise, according to the Michigan Secretary of State, polls in the state are "open from 7:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m," but since the state is in two time zones, the majority of the state polls close at 8 p.m. ET, and the remainder close at 9 p.m. ET. But the MSNBC graphic suggested that all polls in the state close at 9 p.m. ET.
Moreover, MSNBC aired the graphic even after NBC News political director Chuck Todd acknowledged the differences in poll closing times in Florida. During the noon ET hour of MSNBC Live, Todd said, "And a reminder, when you see that we have polls closing at 8 o'clock in Florida, that doesn't mean polls are open until 8 o'clock in the Eastern time zone of Florida. So if you're in South Florida or Central Florida, your polls close at 7. It's in the panhandle that they close in 8 Eastern."
Read more about Election 2008 coverage here.