Those bright, multicolored electronic billboards that loom off the side of the road won't be limited to ads for McDonald's or talk radio tonight when drivers in several Super Tuesday states return home from the office. Instead, they'll be displaying primary returns.
Billboard operators in at least seven states—California, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Minnesota—say they are planning to periodically flash the results from the Democratic and Republican races across the suspended bulbous backdrops as soon as the first precincts start reporting.
Iowa served as the guinea pig for this bright idea back on January 3, the night of the state's party caucuses, when billboard operators in the state teamed up with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America for a trial run. It was the first time in history that billboards had been used to broadcast election results, said OAAA communication director Jeff Golimowski.
"The reaction was universally positive, especially among election officials," Golimowski said, noting that Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida followed suit. "They feel, as we do, that it's a very valuable service to provide to the citizens of these states."
In Georgia tonight, billboards in eight cities, including Macon and Atlanta, will display live election results for three hours after polls close at 8 p.m. Head shots of the winners will be displayed once the final results are known.
And for anyone troubled by the idea of drivers craning their necks skyward and taking their eyeballs off the road to catch a glimpse of a pixilated politician, a 2007 Virginia Tech study suggests that one shouldn't worry too much. Digital billboards are no more hazardous to drivers than their static counterparts.