Election day has finally arrived in the United States. So naturally many of you are wondering: when will the world know the outcome?
Unfortunately, no one knows for sure. We know, we know, you waited so long, and you’re just trying to decide whether to stay awake all night or go to bed hoping there’s a response in the morning. Or Thursday. Or Friday at the latest.
We can’t make this choice for you, but we can give you some tools to help you think through the night.
When the polls close.
The first polling stations close on the East Coast at 7 p.m. local time, and the last do not close until after 12 p.m. Eastern time.
Here is a list of each state’s polling station closures, which usually means that if someone hasn’t voted or isn’t online to vote by then, their time is up.
States begin to communicate some of their results as soon as their polls close. But remember, they don’t report them all at the same time, so you may see biased results when scrolling through news channels or watching New York Times results pages.
When the ballots are counted.
This year especially, things are going to be a little different.
Maggie Astor, political reporter for The Times, explored the history of the counting of the ballots here, amid President Trump’s recent anhistorical claim that the election “should end on November 3, not weeks later. “.
In fact, Ms Astor wrote, no state ever releases final results on election night, and no state is legally expected to do so.
Traditionally, news agencies have projected winners on the basis of partial counts – more on that here.
This year, a big question arises as to whether enough states will have enough votes counted on election night for accurate projections. And depending on the state, we may not immediately know which candidate actually achieved the 270 electoral college votes for winning the presidency. (More information on the Electoral College here.)
Here’s everything you want to know about when the ballots will be counted in different states.
What about electoral calculations?
It is complicated. This week’s Daily podcast outlined three of the potential scenarios, though there are plenty more that could complicate election night and the days after.
“We’ve never had an election like this before,” Alex Burns, national political correspondent, told host Michael Barbaro. “It is possible that we have these expectations and they will be totally dashed by what really happens on election night. It is possible that the counting is much faster, it is possible that it is much slower. “
These three scenarios described by Mr. Burns and Mr. Barbaro:
Joseph R. Biden Jr. clinches a significant victory in one of the fastest growing East Coast states. If Mr. Biden wins Florida, for example, it’s a sign that Mr. Trump’s path to victory may be difficult. “There aren’t a lot of Republicans who believe the president can win this race without Florida,” Burns said.
President Trump is holding on in all of those first great East Coast states. This signals a close race, which means all eyes are on the Midwest.
The third is what Mr. Burns calls the “It’s a giant mess and we just don’t know anything” scenario. He describes a lingering uncertainty: “We are in Florida 2000 in several states at once.” In that case, final appeals in several key states would be based on the counting of postal ballots, which could take days.
You probably have some time to kill right now, so why not go listen to the episode? Or consult the electoral distractor.