This year the networks say they are guarding their exit poll results as if they were crown jewels. The results will be delivered to a "quarantine room," access to which will be granted to only two staffers from each network and wire service, who must surrender all cell phones, BlackBerrys and similar devices before entering the room. Such precautions are designed to prevent preliminary results, often wrong in 2000 and 2004, from being posted on Web sites like the Drudge Report.
Only at 5 p.m. will the occupants of the quarantine room be allowed to reveal the exit polls to their bosses. The networks claim to have completely revamped their exit-poll methodology, which in 2004 had surveys in which the results, collected mostly by female graduate students, consistently favored Democrats. The changes will mean the networks will be slower to call the winners. That and the difficulty of adjusting for the large number of absentee ballots could mean a longer night than usual.