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Bill White's US Election night guide - everything you need to know as America appoints new president

By Claire Williamson

IT is US Election day for the next US President and so we thought we'd have a go at an election night results guide.

First of all, the way the system works is the President (and thus Vice President) is elected by an Electoral College of 538 delegates and this is why you constantly see the magic No. of 270 in all the media reports - as this is the winning post. This electoral college is made up of 535 delegates based on the population of each US state (50 states), and 3 from the District of Columbia (the federal capital of Washington). Of the 50 States, 48 have their delegates elected 'winner takes all', with the remaining two states, Maine and Nebraska, appointing two delegates based on the State-wide result and the remainder individually based on the winner in each Congressional District (two delegates in Maine and three in Nebraska). Of the 48 'winner takes all' states this means that whichever candidate wins e.g. in New York, then all 29 available delegates for that state go to that candidate regardless of how close the actual New York state result ends up.

>>Live US Election results  - interactive coast-to-coast map of every count<<

So here we go with how the results may come through on the night - Thanks to the Los Angeles Times, and Real Clear Politics for most of the analysis. It should be noted that the way the US election results work is via TV media results projections based on Exit polls which are sometimes mixed in terms of their performance (watch Florida) but they're usually pretty good. NB Figures beside each state signify the No. of electoral college votes allocated to that state.

As with elections in the UK early results can give a false impression - Trump should be well ahead with the first results and projections between 1am and 3am (Wednesday morning).

Around 1am to 1.30am Vermont (3) should be called for Clinton, along with Kentucky (8) and West Virginia (5) being called for Trump. District of Columbia (3) i.e. the Washington capital area, will also be called for Clinton around this time. Then around 2am to 2.30am we get a whole rake (to use an Ulster expression) of states declaring, via the exit poll and TV network projections. Those declaring around this time will mostly be for Trump including probably Indiana (11), Tennessee (11), Alabama (9), South Carolina (9) and Oklahoma (7). Crucially Texas (38) should also be projected for Trump at this stage. There was a time when it was thought the Democrats would have a chance in Texas, but that's now faded - The Democrats haven't won this state since 1976. However Clinton should have some scores on the doors by this time with the states of Massachusetts (11) - the Kennedy family's home state, Maryland (10), and Rhode Island (4).

Around 2.15am we should start to see projections and states being called for Clinton including Illinois (20), Connecticut (7) and Delaware (3). New Jersey (14) should also be called for Clinton around this time - other commentators have said this may be initially too close to call, but frankly if Clinton ends up losing here she should leave the country. Georgia (14) should also be projected at this time and probably for Trump as most polls and commentators say it is now tending comfortably that way - However some TV networks may play around with this one for several hours saying it's too close to call, but it should be projected for Trump either now or later. Maine (4) may be projected around now, one of the two states who split their electoral college votes and funnily enough they may split their 4 votes - three for Clinton (including the two state-wide votes) and one for Trump.

2.30pm: North Carolina (15) is a key state and is one of our three key states to watch in our 'Golden Rule' below. North Carolina will be projected around now, probably as too close to call - it may be called for Clinton and if so that's great news for her and bad for Trump. New Hampshire (4) will also be projected around now, with the latest polls projecting this state for Trump.

Trump should be on at least 100 and Clinton around 64 at this stage if all is as expected.

Around 3am we should have more firm projections from the mid-west states which should all be solidly Trump i.e. Arkansas (6), Kansas (6), Mississippi (6) and Wyoming (3). Nebraska (5) is the other state (as well as Maine) who split their electoral college votes across the state and their districts - but it's projected that all 5 will go Trump in the end. So you can see why we said Trump should be well ahead by 2.30am to 3am - if he isn't ahead, then he's in real trouble and we're looking at a Clinton landslide.

Then we should get the first big East or West coast state being projected and this should be New York (29) going for Clinton. Also Wisconsin (10) and Michigan (16) should declare at this time, both for Clinton - though the

Trump campaign has hopes of Michigan, which is a heavy manufacturing state particularly cars. Some networks and exit polls may say one or both of these states are too close to call but Clinton needs both of them and in reality she should get both. There may be a delay in declaring them, but they should both go for Clinton in the end - if either/both don't, then she's in trouble.

Trump should be leading at this stage on at least 120, but with Clinton closing in on at least 90.

Around 3.45am-4am a few more of the mid west and northern and southern states should be projected i.e. Louisiana (8), North Dakota (3), and South Dakota (3) all for Trump. Pennsylvania (20) should be projected at this time, maybe as a too close to call - as we say below, this state is the second of our three states in our golden rule to follow i.e. this state, North Carolina, and/or Florida could be decisive! If Pennsylvania is declared for Clinton at this stage then that's really good news for her. For those of you who want an earlier prediction for Pennsylvania watch for results from the Philadelphia suburbs (maybe around 1am) — places like Bucks and Chester Counties. If Clinton is able to win big there, it is very hard to see Trump winning this state.

Around 4.15am Minnesota (10) and New Mexico (5) should be declared for Clinton - if either are declared too close to call then it's bad news for Clinton, but frankly it would be a big surprise if either weren't declared for Clinton. Ohio (18) should be declared at this time and although Ohio is deemed a classic swing state, most polls and commentators are now projecting this one for Trump. If Trump can't win Ohio then he's in real trouble and it's hard to see how he can win overall without Ohio.

As we said at the start Trump will, and indeed should still be leading at this stage, at around 150 to 166 electoral college votes - However Clintons 'big hitters' have still to come, - so as long as she's scoring around 110 electoral college votes by this time she's well in the race, and could be said to be the favourite.

Around 4.30am to 5am California (55) will be declared for Clinton (one of her big hitters) - no surprise there, along with Virginia (13) for Clinton. Missouri (10) and Idaho (4) will/should also be called and projected for Trump. Florida (29) will probably be declared at this stage as too close to call - If it's declared for Clinton by most/all networks then Trump may as well prepare his concession speech. Iowa (6) will also be projected around now probably for Trump, along with Washington (12) and Oregon (7) both being declared for Clinton, that's after some of the networks go through the usual stuff of saying these latter two are too close to call. Then around 5.15am Arizona (11) should be called for Trump and Hawaii (4) for Clinton. The scores on the doors at this stage should be getting close with both candidates on somewhere between 170 -190 electoral college votes each.

At 6am all the polls in the US will now have closed, and this will result in Montana (3) and Alaska (3) being called for Trump. Around this time Colorado (9) and Nevada (6) should be projected - either or both may be declared to be too close to call, however if the latest polls are taken into account they should eventually be declared both for Clinton.

So we're heading for 7am, and by now we should have a clear idea the way it's going with it probably coming down to Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), and Florida (29), and perhaps even Colorado (9) and/or Nevada (6) - these last two if it's really close. If it's still close, and too close to call in some or all of these states, then there'll be talk of recounts, lawyers, legal actions, and it may be a long time before we know who's won! In 2000, because of the recounts in Florida the final result wasn't declared for another 36 days.

Mind you, you can get too carried away with the analyses, and as pollsters we have a tendency to do this. Basically if you go through the above and stick all the figures through an excel spreadsheet, there seems to be a golden rule for this election, - follow it and we think you'll not go far wrong. Track three states: Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Both Trump and Clinton really need to win two out of these three states to win overall, and those two realistically need to include Florida. There are routes to win for both candidates without Florida but they're long shots for both Trump and Clinton (Trump has more or less a zero chance without Florida). Plus those long shots mean that if either candidate loses Florida then they must win both Pennsylvania AND North Carolina to have any chance. Mind you, as always there are other ways to cut the pie (as they say in Idaho) and we've analysed this hundreds of ways but interestingly whatever way the pie is cut Florida always appears somewhere. In any case, we think it'll boil down to the above rule - We'll soon know.


Here is a guide to how the result of the US presidential election will be decided:

Q. What will happen on election day, November 8?

A. Polls open at different times across the United States and will remain open for most of the day. In many states people have been able to vote in advance and it is estimated at least one-third of all votes will have been cast before November 8.

Q. What happens when the polls close?

A. The main US TV networks will "call" each state for either Hillary Clinton (Democrat) or Donald Trump (Republican). Most states vote the same way each election and these will be called as soon as their polls close. Examples are New York and California for the Democrats, and Louisiana and Tennessee for the Republicans.

Q. Which states will be called first?

A. Indiana and Kentucky (polls close 11pm UK time). Both of these are safe Republican states, so these ought to be called for Mr Trump straight away. Polls in the rest of the states will close over the next few hours, ending at 4am.

Q. Which states are worth watching for?

A. The so-called "swing states", which tend to vote different ways in each election. Neither Mrs Clinton nor Mr Trump can win without taking at least some of these states. Here is when these polls are due to close (UK time): Florida and New Hampshire 12am; North Carolina and Ohio 12.30am; Arizona and Colorado 2am; Iowa and Nevada: 3am.

Q. Who currently has the advantage in these states?

A. Polls suggest Mrs Clinton is ahead in most of them, but not by much. She also has a slightly easier route to victory than Mr Trump. If she holds all of the "safe" Democratic states, a win in Florida could be enough to see her over the finishing line. Mr Trump needs to take almost all of the swing states to get him past the winning post.

Q. What is the winning post?

A. 270 electoral votes.

Q. And what are electoral votes?

A. Each state is worth a different number of electoral votes, based on population size - so California, a very populous state, is worth 55 votes while the sparsely inhabited Montana is worth just three. A candidate collects all the electoral votes for a state by coming top of the popular vote. For example, in Florida the polls suggest Mrs Clinton currently leads Mr Trump by around 47% to 45%. If this were repeated on election day, Mrs Clinton would collect all of Florida's 29 electoral college votes.

Q. When will we know who is the next president?

A. If Mrs Clinton or Mr Trump has won comfortably, it should be obvious by around 4am on Wednesday morning. If the result is close, the final picture might not be clear until late morning. But should some of the swing states be extremely close, recounts and legal challenges could hold things up for days or - as was the case with Florida in 2000 - weeks.

Q. How is the winner declared?

A. Usually by the loser conceding defeat. The actual process of counting votes takes many hours, sometimes days. If the overall result is close, do not expect anybody to concede any time soon.

Q. Is there a cut-off point when the result has to become official?

A. Yes: January 6 2017. This is when the US Congress meets to count and authorise the electoral votes.

Q. And Barack Obama stays in office throughout this period?

A. Yes, until 12pm on January 20 2017 when the president-elect will take the oath of office and become the 45th President of the United States.

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