US Watch – US presidential election day: the timeline

by: Maritza Cabezas

The first voters of the day

The US presidential elections are scheduled for 8 November. Candidates need 270 seats to win. The opening time for voting varies in each state. Voting starts between 6:00 and 7:00 (ET) or 11:00 to 12:00 (GMT), polling stations start to close at 19:00 (ET) or 00:00 (GMT) and ends at midnight (ET) or 5:00 (GMT). Polling booths open across the six different time zones. As soon as polls close, (at different times depending on the time zone) there will be a projection for that state based on exit polls carried out throughout the day. These should give a good indication of who has won that state. The first projections come from east coast states. The first announcement is usually made from a small village Dixville Notch in New Hampshire, which competes with other towns for the honour of the state that is “the first to declare”.

162810-Election-timeline-1.pdf (220 KB)


Polls of several swing states available early in the process

If the earliest  possible time for polls would be followed (see below table) and projections are made as early as 19:30 (ET) or 00:30 GMT, we would have a good idea of whether Hillary Clinton has the support of the swing states. It will particularly interesting to know the outcome of Florida, with 29 seats and Ohio with 18 seats (at 000:30 GMT), both states remain until now largely divided. If these states show a Democratic preference, this could give Clinton the votes she needs to reach a majority. The earliest possible time that the US TV will “call” for either candidate is at 23:00 ET or 4:00 GMT.


Path to the official Presidential designation

Although the national popular vote is the basis for electing the government, on 8 November, during the General Elections, the voters in each state choose electors to serve in the Electoral College. On 19 December, there is a meeting of Electors, who meet in each state to record their votes and select the President and Vice President. Only on exceptional occasions has a member of the Electoral College not voted for the presidential or vice presidential candidate for whom they honoured to pledge after indicated by the popular vote. By December 28, the President of the United States and other designated officials must have the electoral votes in hand.  The 2016 election result will not be formally counted until 6 January 2017, when incumbent Vice President Joe Biden will announce the result of the electoral college.