US Election Night

Tonight, you should hardly need telling, is US election night, so here’s a thread for overnight discussion and some things to look out for tonight.

First up a note about exit polls. Exit polls this year are only being conducted in 31 states rather than 50, they aren’t bothering with some of the safe states, including some of those states closing first (so no exit polls in Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina and West Virginia – all safe Republican states). Exit polls are done in the same way as in the UK – people stand outside polling stations and get a proportion of people leaving after having voted to fill in surveys, although unlike in the UK they ask a full survey about their opinions and why they voted as they did, not just how they voted. Exit polls are supplemented with phone polls to take account of early voters.

Exit polls are not released until the polls in that state are closed, people will inevitably claim to have leaked exit poll data prior to that. Any claimed leaks before 10pm will be bollocks anyway – the polling data will still be under strict quarantine in a locked room. Any claimed leaks after that will probably be bollocks too, and should be ignored anyway as it won’t be probably weighted yet. Also bear in mind that in recent elections the initially released exit poll data has tended to be a bit skewed to the Democrats, becoming more accurate as actual votes come in. That may or may not be the case this time.

The initial exit polls are updated as actual votes are counted, and weighted based on the declared votes in the districts where the exit poll took place. Once the networks are certain that a party has won the seat they call it – obviously the closer a state is, the longer it takes for the networks to be certain who has won. Hence while we have a list of the time that states’ polls close and exit polls will be released, its it only the very safe states that will be called straight away. In 2008 states where the vote was relatively close (say, under 10 points) sometimes took a couple of hours after polls closed for the networks to call the race, states with the tightest races took much longer to call: Montana and Florida four hours, North Caroline a day, Missouri a week.

In a tight race, don’t expect a result in the early hours!

Looking at the timetable.

11pm. Most polls close in Indiana and Kentucky – some parts of both states are an hour behind, so the networks may not call them until the whole state has finished voting, but either way both will vote Romney.

12 midnight. Polls close in Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont & Virginia. Most polls close in Florida. Georgia and South Carolina will vote Romney, Vermont will vote Obama. Virginia and Florida are the first toss-up states. For Romney to win, he really needs to win both of these – if Obama wins either of them then it becomes difficult (but not impossible) for Romney to win. The polls in Florida are neck-and-neck, if they have been accurate it is not going to be called for many hours. Most recent polls in Virginia have shown Obama ahead, but it will probably be a few hours until it is called.

12:30 am. North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia polls close. West Virginia will vote Romney. North Carolina and Ohio are another two key states. Recent polls have tended to show Romney ahead in North Carolina, again it is a state he really does need to win. Ohio is likely to be the key – if Romney wins Virginia, North Carolina and Florida he needs Ohio and another state (New Hampshire, Colorado, Iowa?) to win. If Obama holds Ohio he has won unless he loses something unexpected like Wisconsin or Pennsylvania. At 12:30 though this will be academic – if the race is at all close they aren’t going to be calling it yet.

1 am. A whole slew of states close: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, most of Texas and Michigan and the remaining part of Florida close. Apart from Florida the only really interesting states amongst them all are New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania should be solidly Democrat, Obama won it by 10 points last time, John Kerry won it, all but one of the recent polls have shown Obama ahead, often by good margins. It should be Obama. However, both campaigns have been targeting it so it must be seen as somewhat close. In the event that Romney does win it he would probably win unless Obama had won Virginia, North Carolina or Florida instead (though frankly, the idea of the Democrats winning one of those states and not Pennsylvania is somewhat bonkers)

1:30 am. Arkansas polls close.

2:00 am. New York, Kansas, Louisana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wyoming polls close, the remainder of Texas and Michigan close. Again, these are mostly safe states – the two interesting ones are Wisconsin (which the polls suggest should go for Obama without too much difficulty) and Colorado, where the polls are closer, but are consistently showing Obama ahead. More interesting is that by now we’ve had a couple of hours for votes to be counted in the early-closing states, so with a bit of luck we should start to see competitive states being called. The broad picture of the night, whether Obama is probably home and dry, whether it is going to be close or whether there could be a Romney win will hopefully start to emerge around now.

3:00 am. Polls close in Iowa, Montana, Utah, Nevada and most of North Dakota. Iowa and Nevada are the last of the swing states. Nevada looks like it should go to Obama, Iowa’s polls have Obama ahead, but less convincingly.

4:00 am. California, Washington, Hawaii. Most of Idaho, Oregon. All safe states for one side or the other. The closer run states should be being called around now. Unless things have gone right down to the wire we should soon know who has won. If they have gone right down to a couple of states where the candidates are neck-and-neck it could take days. Go to bed.

5:00 am. Alaska. Go! Go to bed. Sheesh.

483 Responses to “US Election Night”

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  1. Nadine Dorries suspended from the Conservative party.

    Is that for pretending she is a celebrity?

  2. 538’s final prediction today says 303 Obama, 206 Romney and Florida as an exact tie, all on probable victories. For the last three weeks Florida has been in Romney’s column; this morning it moved over to Obama’s and about lunchtime it went back to 50-50. However, he says that the most likely outcome is 332 Obama (just over 20%) with 303 second (about 16%) and 347 third (about 13%).

    Regarding the national vote, Silver says 50.8 – 48.3 in Obama’s favour.

  3. Couper

    Your assumption that Gore would not have gone to war in the Gulf had he been President is just plain wrong, the fact is he was one of ten democrat senators that voted in favour of the first Gulf war . Gore was many things but hardly one to avoid conflict for example he enlisted in the Vietnam war as engineer, unusually for a Harvard man, most of whom found ways to avoid the draft, and in later life served on several Armed services committee’s.
    It’s a rather erroneous assumption to believe it’s only Republicans who take America to war.

  4. You’re not being fair. All RCP do is look at who is in the lead for any given state in the average of their polls, and for their ‘no toss ups’ map declare that state as going to that candidate. No different from 538 saying that (for example) Ohio is 91% sure of voting for Obama.

    For the sake of argument we might as well say that the two maps are identical except that 538 has Florida going to Obama giving him 332.

  5. Yes RCP says 303 Obama, Nate says 332.

    In terms of national vote, RCP says 0.7% Obama lead.
    Nate Silver says 2.5% Obama lead.

    I’ve saved these figures to use tomorrow to compare the actual result to see who was more accurate, RCP or Nate.

  6. RCP don’t give percentages of how likely each state is to go. They just say which is more likely. I doubt Nate’s Math a little. I think Ohio will go to Obama, 92% sure, no way,

  7. AW:

    “trouper” = trooper.

    Standards please.

  8. Anthony – “dixville notch” “Four years ago they had 21 voters, now they’ve only got 10. What horror has set foot amongst them?”
    Anthony its obvious ,one of the inhabitants is a serial killer,the police just have to wait until theres only one inhabitant left and arrest him or her lol ( if david camerons reading this thats laugh out loud not lots of love)
    i bet 25 quid on romney at 4/1 yesterday . i want obama to win but if he loses at least i get 100 pounds profit.

  9. The projection of 313 ECVs for Obama is calculated by multiplying the number of ECVs for each state by the model’s probability forecast for that state. See my note above for a breakdown of which numbers Nate actually has of being most likely.

    Similarly, Simon Wang at Princeton has a forecast average of 312, but his median result is also 332. Incidentally, he has put his neck on the line to an even greater extent than Nate – he says that a Romney win is a statistical impossibility, whereas Nate says it is merely very unlikely.

  10. I forgot about the different time zones in the USA and unlike in the UK everything shuts down at once.

    “Exit polls are not released until the polls in that state are closed, people will inevitably claim to have leaked exit poll data prior to that. Any claimed leaks before 10pm will be bollocks anyway”

    I still mind the time Ming rubbished the exit poll at the last UK election when it flashed up in the studio. Mind you even dear old Ming never used the “bollocks” word lol. ;)

  11. @TURK

    We will never know but if we were to copy Nate Silver I would say there was a 90% chance that Gore would either have not started the war with Iraq at all or not went to war without UN backing.

  12. I do think this is Obama supporters getting carried away with themselves, much like Boris Johnson supporters did in London this year. As the election gets closer the winning side, exagerates a little. I remember people declaring Boris was a shoe in, and in actual fact the result was very close and at one point it looked like Ken would win.

    Now I think Obama is the more likely of candidates, 92% certain, hell no. The best way to look at it is the bookmakers, you never see a poor bookmaker, if Obama was certain to win, they wouldn’t be offering such good odds.

    If I was 92% sure Obama would win I’d have put a lot more than £60 on i tell ya. I’d have put thousands on.

  13. @Old Nat – “Nadine Dorries suspended from the Conservative party.”

    One step closer to joining UKIP?


    Probably UKIP’s best chance of getting an MP! :-)

  15. I say good on Nadine for going on I’m A Celebrity, I think it’s extremely short sighted for the Conservative Party to suspend her.

    A young Conservative in the Scottish Youth Parliament won Big Brother a few years ago (think it was 2008) It will raise her profile, in a big way, and if she proves popular the Tory Party will get a backlash for suspending her.

    I think MP’s should be more open to the public. David Cameron is clueless when it comes to Public Relations, despite having all this experience in PR, George Galloway went into Big Brother and boosted his profile, it’s not done him any harm. He was still able to give Labour and the Tories a trouncing in the By election.

    If they suspend her fully, there’s nothing to stop her running again as an Independent, and I think the increased profile and incumbent status could help her trounce the Tory candidate in 2015.

    Remember DC is the idiot who resisted twitter for ages, saying “too many tweets and you get a tw*t” before finally accepting he was wrong and getting an account. Someone drag this Eton boy into the 21st century! All publicity is good publicity, unless she is really hated which I doubt, because most people watching unreality tv, don’t have the same biases, they vote for a personality.

    Many natural Labour supporters may not like her policies, but they might see her on I’m A Celeb without all the politics and think she’s likeable. Like I said, member of the Young Tories, and Scottish Youth Parliament won Big Brother 4 years ago despite being a Tory.

  16. He was a lib dem sorry, not a Tory


    “He was a lib dem sorry, not a Tory”

    There is some kind of distinction between those terms?

  18. I think it’s a disgrace that an elected MP is flying to the other side of the world to take part in a TV reality show.

    She should be booted out of parliament and why should she still receive a wage from the UK tax payers whilst she is mud wrestling with Crocodiles?

    Anyway back on topic, why has my last comment been put into moderation?

  19. If Dorries defects to UKIP, and UKIP stand in a sufficient number of seats in 3 of the 4 UK nations…then am I right in thinking UKIP have a legal claim to be in the 2015 UK General Election television debate?

    Come to think of it, don’t the Greens already have a claim courtesy of Lucas? Or will the fact that the Green Party in Scotland is not the same legal entity as the Green Party in E&W mess them up?

    Regards, Martyn

  20. Intrade have Obama at 69% and romney on 31% they also have good odds for a democratic senate and overwhelming odds for a republican house, interestingly a dem sweep is priced at only 1% with no price given for a rep sweep(pres+sen+house)

  21. @Oldnat

    In 2008 when he won there was difference :P not anymore now you are right.


    Several Sinn Fein MP’s still receive all their rights without even turning up in Parliament or swearing in. Gordon Brown is an MP and yet is never in Parliament, too busy on the lecture circuit, or talking to just the 1 reporter who bothered to turn up to hear him at the UN.

    There is no minimum amount of time that an MP has to do constituency duties. George Galloway, Lembit Opik, Ann Widdecombe, all proved extremely popular on the shows they went on. I think it’s good because Politicians have this reputation for being distant and out of touch, here she is going to the other side of the world, putting herself through hell, just to prove, actually politicians aint all that bad.

    Putting party labels and politics aside for the moment, none of us really know a lot about any of our MP’s. We know some of their policies and dislike those policies, and judge them on that, but as people we know nothing about them.

    Many of the people we consider friends may have views that we personally disagree with, maybe extreme views they don’t tell us about. But we still like them.

  22. Anthony,
    Re the strange case of the missing Dixville Notch voters. Not a case for Midsummer Murders unfortunately, apparently that polling district consists of some sort of resort hotel complex that is currently undergoing a renovation so a lot of people are currently away.

  23. @Old Nat

    Nadine may well be one of the five Tory MPs Stuart Wheeler has made approaches to about defecting. Possibly Cameron has decided on balance it is better to drop her before she jumps.

    UKIP’s first MP would assure her of place (or a footnote) in the history books.

  24. Allen

    Is nadine going to be wrestling crocodiles? I would pay good money to see that!!!!

  25. RIN addressing both your points. She won’t be wrestling Crocodiles but she will be eating Shark Brains.

    Also in regards to the US 60% likelihood for Obama in my opinion is much more realistic than 92%, alas we will never know when Obama wins how likely it was.

    I agree with your comments on the Senate and House. Both are now certain to stay under their current ownership. So President Obama will constantly be vetoed by a Republican House, and President Romney will constantly be vetoed by a Democratic Senate for at least another 2 years each way.

    So either way, America will continue the 2 years of gridlock and stand still.

  26. MiM

    I’m disappointed, the news about nadine fighting crocs was the best of the year so far. Such a shame its not true

  27. The thing I don’t get is Vince Cable was on Strictly come Dancing, and yet the Libs didn’t suspend him. Part of me thinks Nadine’s suspension was because Cameron’s been looking for a reason since that “posh boys who don’t know the price of milk” truth.

  28. I’m looking forward to Elizabeth warren taking the senate seat in mass, she is ahead 50 to 45 against Scott brown. Be nice if she becomes the first female pres in 2016, but I guess that’s just unrealistic. Wall st and corporate America hate her so no chance of raising the big bucks needed to run for pres

  29. Enjoy your pizza Anthony :-)


    I take your points but in the case of Sinn Fein MP’s they are still serving their constituents at local level.

    In the cases of Ooompick and Galloway they were not serving MP’s at the time and Gordon Brown although not popular at the UN (1 reporter lol) well he is still doing a sort of public service.

    Each case id different but I honestly would call for my local MP or MSP to stand down if they thought appearing on a reality tv show was more important than issues in their constituency.

    And she says she is going to give her views when she appears on the program? Oh dear watch the viewing rating tumble!!



    Is nadine going to be wrestling crocodiles? I would pay good money to see that!!!!”

    I hope so!! ;)

  32. @MITM

    The rationale is not that she is on a television programme, but the duration of time she will be absent from the HoC and the consequent inability to discharge her duties as an MP

    Regards, Martyn

  33. @MITM

    Not necessarily. There are things called Executive Orders which, the President can use to overcome gridlock. Bush the son used them a lot.

    Also, I disagree with you on Nate Silver’s 92% prediction being improbable. Almost all state polls point to Obama winning the states that give him at least 303 ECV. He only needs 270 to win. So on a state level it’s more than justified. Regarding Popular Vote, again almost all polls, show Obama ahead and gaining. Obama has been gaining both at state level and nationally. That’s what makes him such a convincing likely winner.

    And I also, think you should note Nate is a statistician by trade. I’m sure he stands by his numbers and formulas.

    Finally, I don’t think Romney has any chance statistically. Miracles can happen, but he’s so far behind in a polling sense, that,to,win not,only,would,almost all polls need to be,wrong, they’d also need to biased. If every pollster has you ahead – even,by,only,2-3% – then you are seriously ahead.

  34. Guardian saying this is a genuine case of a vote machine registering an Obama vote as a vote for Romney in Pennsylvania:


  35. @RAF

    What duties does an MP really have for their constituency? They represent their views. Ok for 2 maybe 3 weeks, the views of Mid Bedfordshire won’t be heard in Parliament, big whoop, it’s not like she has the casting vote at all.

    I don’t know what my local MP has been upto over the past 2 to 3 weeks, he could be on holiday for all I know.


    Equally there’s a story about Romney votes being registered as Obama, it sounds like it’s just a problem with callobration. We all know what this is like anyone with a DS, smart phone or those electronic white boards.

    So you put your finger on one candidate but the mouse goes slightly to the left or right, to the other candidate.

    I really don’t think either side is trying to cheat in this election.


    It is. The machine wasn’t calibrated properly, so that only a small section of the Obama box registered an Obama vote.

    No one at the polling station had been trained to recalibrate (or even understand the term, it seems).

    The technology seems to be very poor with these machines.

  37. @OldNat

    Is there a paper back-up system in place?

  38. RAF

    These are direct-recording machines – no paper.

    Voting systems are decided at state/county level, so there is no standard practice across the USA.

    Some states still use paper and pencil.

  39. @MANINTHEMIDDLE – “Equally there’s a story about Romney votes being registered as Obama”

    In which state/county was that?

  40. It was during the early voting in Colorado.

  41. Are the predictions over?Obama by 2.5 points

  42. According to BBC’s Ian Purnell

    “VP Candidate Ryan sends “URGENT” email warning “heavy Democrat turnout. We have to counteract with a late surge””

  43. @OldNat

    In that case, the most appropriate solution would be to have machines that allowed you to confirm your selection I.e. “you are voting for Romney. Please confirm, or press BACK to return to the voting screen”.

    If it is a callibration error then the wonkiness of the callibration should result in more or less equal errors on both sides. If however the wonky callibration only affects Obama votes in a Dem district then that’s another matter.

    Finally, if it’s only happening in Florida, whatever the reasons, it shouldn’t affect the, overall result off the Election.

  44. ” I really don’t think either side is trying to cheat in this election.”

    Hurmmm, I would say that neither side is trying to cheat more than the other side, they are after all politicians, cheating is more or less in their nature

  45. Turnout seems to be high in mass but that’s most likely the warren effect

  46. Good quality MSNBC livestream here.


    I find MSNBC just as bad (on the opposite side) as Fox News.

  48. If you watch half an hour of MSNBC, and half an hour of Fox News, then you get the real picture somewhere in between.

  49. Thanks drunkenscouser… having watched Karl Rove and Sean Hannity on Fox earlier, MSNBC makes for a welcome change of pace.

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