In case you just woke up from a five-month long Pokemon Go journey that saw you walk across all of Canada, lose your job, break up with your life partner, legally change your name to Professor Oak, and dive (far too) deep into the existential meaning of both virtual and metaphysical life, you’re probably aware that the 2016 US presidential election is taking place today, November 8.
In fact, even if all that stuff happened to you we bet you’d still know. It’s been impossible to miss. Regardless of where in the world you are.
And now, thank goodness, it’s about to end.
However, if you’d rather skip the hours of updates to come, the countless minutes of pundit pontificating, and the endless seconds of repeated sound bites and get to the time when you can simply find out who will be the next President of the United States – we got you.
There are just a few things you need to know first. Stay with us:
The election is decided by the Electoral College. Members of the Electoral College represent their state and each state is given a specific number of electors based on their population. If a candidate wins a state they win all the votes available to that state. For example, the state of California is worth 55 electoral college votes while the state of South Dakota is worth 3.
This is only important to you because there are 538 total electoral college votes up for grabs tonight, which means that the magic number you’ll be hearing over and over again, as it’s what’s needed to secure the White House, is 270.
Networks love exit polls. This is that thing where they interview people who’ve just voted and try to use those small numbers as indications of larger trends. Depending on the results of exit polls (particularly in key battle ground states), the election could be called much earlier than usual, as CNN explains, “In order for Trump to win, he would need to secure all of the states currently considered battlegrounds, including Florida, Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina and New Hampshire.”
Keep in mind that you’re dealing with 50 states across six time zones (four in the continental US). So that’s a lot of polls over a lot of time zones that need to close up. Luckily, Politico has a great little map (click to enlarge) that shows what time each state’s polls close:
This means that there are some very important times to tune in, if you want to know which way the election is looking to go. Here are some times that could either make or prolong the declaration of a winner:
For the past few US elections, the Associated Press has called the winner between 8 pm PST / 11 pm EST and 8:40 pm PST / 11:40 pm EST. This seems to be the standard most media are comfortable with. At that point, all of the continental US polls will have closed and nearly all of the 570 electoral college votes will have been decided (if not yet known), and exit polls will indicate if there are any final surprises in store.
Keep in mind, however, that the 1996 election was called as early as 6 pm PST / 9 pm and the 2000 election was not called that night because of the Florida recount.
So there you have it.
We have no concrete idea when the next President of the United States will be named. But barring any major shocks or upsets, or one of the candidates (we’ll let you guess which one) refuses to accept the results and causes one hell of a stir, you should know roughly who the next POTUS is around 8-8:30 PST / 11-11:30 pm EST.