US Election Night; What to look out for…

It’s nearly election night. We are getting ready to see who will win between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

But, what should we be looking out for? When do the polls close? Being the public service that we are on Slugger, I have gone through all 50 states and converted the poll closings into British-Irish time. I have highlighted in yellow the key states and when their polls will be closing.

It’s important at this juncture to point out to you that some states count faster than others. So Florida is much better and faster at counting than Virginia or Pennsylvania. There is also a huge early voting number this year with more than 80 million Americans voting already which will impact the pace of the count as not all states count their pre-poll votes at the same time.


He are the basics, a candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win. If you win a state by even as little as 1% you get all the electoral votes for that state. Only Maine and Nebraska allocate their votes by district. You might think this is an odd system but please do not come screaming about the popular vote, this is not what decides the US Presidency and has never done so. On the popular vote, as is traditional, GOP candidates take an early lead as more rural counties typically report first. Democrats run up their scores in the big cities which are typically late to the party. For example, in 2012, Romney led in Virginia for a huge part of the night but as soon as the more urban areas began reporting the state flipped to Obama.

Another important thing is that polls don’t close at once in the USA. As you see from the table below, there are more than four rounds of poll closures and sometimes, polls don’t close in the one state at the same time. Florida and Michigan are a case in point.  If you are planning to stay up, you should keep in mind you won’t see any real meaningful numbers until after 1am our time.

Network Projection

What you see on election night are not the official results. They are network projections. The main networks have decision desks which are made up of statisticians and they crunch the numbers based on exit polls and the raw numbers coming in.  The networks cooperate with one another on getting the data and polling right. Here is how they do it;

In past elections, when the majority of Americans voted on election day in person, U.S. decision desks would lean heavily on exit polls. These are surveys conducted across the country as voters exit their local polling stations. These are supplemented by standard telephone polling to interview people who voted by mail.

In 2016, about 40 per cent of Americans voted early or by mail (split roughly evenly). In this election, estimates put the number of early and mail ballots at well over 80 million. That could represent more than 60 per cent of the total turnout in 2016.

That’s why Edison Research — which provides data and projections to the National Election Pool (NEP) consortium that includes NBC, CNN, ABC and CBS — has boosted the amount of telephone polling it’s doing in this campaign to get a better idea of what to expect from the mail ballots.

When does someone officially become the winner?

A lot has been made about Trump not conceding the race. Yes, it is nice when the losing candidate says something along the lines of “we worked hard, fought for what we believe in but I congratulate our new president” but this has no official status on the electoral process. For example, in 2000 Gore phoned Bush to concede and then retracted it. In 2016, Trump gave his victory speech before Hillary had spoken. The votes are all counted, they can be challenged, some states if the result is close have recount procedures but they are then certified.

The Electoral College will meet on December 14th 2020 in Washington. This is presided over by the Vice President and the results are confirmed. Joe Biden at that moment would be President-Elect officially or Donald Trump would be confirmed for a second term.

Under the Constitution, the 20th amendment sets out clearly that;

The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3dday of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

Trump & Biden” by ekaden is licensed under CC BY-SA

White House” by radkuch.13 is licensed under CC BY