Election Night 2016: What you need to know

Election night is finally here. After a mammoth eighteen-month campaign, the next President of the United States is about to be chosen. Through the primaries, conventions, debates and controversies, this election cycle has raised as many questions as it has answered. Here are the answers to the key questions everyone is asking on this historic, if terrifying, election night.


Who’s going to win?

In short: Clinton (probably)

Donald Trump briefly led the national polls after the two party’s National Conventions in July. Since then Clinton has led consistently, although not by a consistent margin. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog, which correctly predicted the result in every State in 2012, gives Secretary Clinton a 71.4% chance of winning. The Upshot, from the New York Times, gives the former First Lady an 85% chance with many projections even more emphatic. Trump’s odds may be long but he does have at least a theoretical path the crucial 270 electoral college votes. A victory for the Billionaire businessman would however require unexpected results in a number of key states.


What are the key swing States?

In short: Florida, Nevada, North Carolina (and maybe Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Colorado)

Florida is the perennial swing State and again it looks set to be decisive in this election. Trump’s path to the White House almost certainly requires him picking up the its 29 electoral votes whilst for Clinton the State forms part of her ‘firewall’ (States she can just about afford to lose). The other major swing States really depend on Florida. If Trump wins there he’ll need to take perhaps two more ‘Democratic leaning’ States such as Colorado and Michigan; if Clinton wins Florida she’ll be looking to cement victory by taking either Iowa or Ohio.


When will we know the result?

In short: 4am GMT at the earliest (the 2012 race was called at 4:38am)

Polls begin to close at 11pm GMT, starting with traditionally Republican Kentucky and Indiana. An hour later, a number of East Coast States including Florida and Georgia close their polls and the first projections will be made; mostly based on early voting. (Note: if Clinton is doing well in Georgia you might as well go to bed, she’s won). Of the remaining key swing States, Pennsylvania’s polls close at 1am GMT and Colorado’s at 2am. TV networks will only call the race when they are confident of the result. The earliest this will happen is 4am; the result may be clear once projections from the swing states are in but a tight race may not be officially called until breakfast time tomorrow.


What about the House and Senate?

In short: Republicans will retain control of the House, the Senate is a toss-up

Most election coverage has completely ignored the House of Representatives as the Republican majority there is so big that only a catastrophic night could see control pass to the Democrats. Even a strong showing from Democrats (a gain of around 10-20 seats) would leave them roughly thirty seats behind the GOP. The Senate is much tighter. Republicans currently hold 54 seats giving them a majority of 8. Polls suggest however that this majority could be wiped out entirely with FiveThirtyEight showing the race virtually neck-and-neck. The prospect of a 50/50 Senate, arguably the most likely outcome, makes the Presidential race even more exciting. (Note: The Vice-President breaks ties in the Senate).


What happens next?

In short: Victory and concession speeches and a period of calm (hopefully)

After one of the most divisive and, frankly, bizarre elections in history, America and the World needs to move on quickly. Donald Trump’s chilling admission that he may not concede defeat if he loses tonight, along with his constant claims that the election will be rigged, make this difficult. Both candidates are hated by their opponent’s die-hard supporters but most Americans are more concerned about how well the next President governs. Whoever wins tonight has a monumental task ahead of them. From a distance, America appears starkly divided and a tight race with the potential for recounts and even Supreme Court challenges (like 2000) can only makes those divisions starker. The best result then, is a fair race with a clear winner.


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