I’m from the UK and don’t quite understand elections and time zones. I guess it’s easier here, without time zones, and there are no public exit polling predictions until after all polling stations close.
Then, on the stroke of 10:00pm when the polling stations shut, the predictions are announced.
I’m interested in the popular vote in the last US election, in particular how much time there remained to vote in the western States after key States elsewhere - Florida, etc - were called for Trump?
Looking at the FIRST page of this Guardian live blog, it looks like there’s a 6-hour spread between farthest east and west …
While that’s true. The six hour spread is only to Hawaii and parts of Alaska. Together those states have 7 electoral votes I believe. Also Hawaii was definitely going D with Alaska just a bit less definitely going R. In fact most of the Pacific time zone (California, Washington and Oregon) is pretty reliably Democratic in Presidential elections now. Nevada and parts of Idaho form the rest of the three hour difference.
That sounds about right to me. I was voting that day in Madison, WI (at UW-Madison), and my roommate and I waited in line for about 2 1/2 hours to vote. The polling place was supposed to close at 8pm Central (IIRC), and a poll worker assured everyone in line that, if we were in line by 8pm, we would be able to vote.
We finally voted around 8:20pm; as I walked out of the voting machine booth, I noticed another poll worker in the back of the room, watching the returns on a small portable TV. I asked him, “how’s it looking?”, and he said, “Reagan has [some number in the 30s, I don’t recall the exact number] states so far, and Mondale has DC and Minnesota. They already called it for Reagan.”
Trump took longer than most, because a number of states that were expected to be comfortably in favor of Clinton actually ended up going narrowly to Trump. But since it was narrow, they had to wait for every last vote to be counted before they could be sure which way it went.
While it’s true that you won’t know the total score until the West Coast states close, that doesn’t always mean you can’t call it. An election that the Republican ultimately wins is an election where California’s (and Washington’s and Oregon’s) D votes weren’t enough, so any election won by a Republican can be called early (technically there’s still the possibility that California would go R, but even if that happened, it’d just affect the margin, not the winner).
And the other big difference between here and the UK is that Americans have long ballots, with many offices and initiatives being voted on at once. It varies state to state, but a single ballot might have the President (and VP), a US Senator, a US Representative, members of the state Senate and House, possibly a governor, possibly assorted other state-level officials (attorney general, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, etc.), possibly a mayor and/or city council members, possibly local-level officials, usually a handful of judges, and as many as a dozen different state and local ballot initiatives. When you’ve got all of that to count at once, it takes longer, especially in those few jurisdictions that still do it all by hand.
IIRC, when the media called the election for Reagan so early in the evening, there were reports that voters on the West Coast actually got out of line and left the polls. After state officials complained the news media got together and decided they wouldn’t call an election before the polls in California and the other states actually closed.
Fast forward to 2008 and you saw a lot of tap dancing by the networks, who all knew Obama was beating McCain in key Republican targets like Ohio, Florida and North Carolina. Without them McCain had no chance of winning, but the networks wouldn’t budge. Note the electoral vote numbers at the bottom right ofthis clip and how Obama’s vote goes from 206 to 283 in a matter of seconds.
Not quite. The networks had to wait longer than usual, but not until “every last vote was counted”. It’s generally many days after the election before “every last vote” is counted in any given state. This is especially true of absentee ballots. I only point this out since the OP is not from the US and probably hasn’t sat through endless hours of news programs giving US election updates.
The networks have fairly sophisticated data and algorithms. They also know where the count is heading. So after the 2000 debacle they delay in calling. I woke up at around 9 pm US Eastern time and Trump was already being talked about as the likely winner. So they knew Trump was likely hours before.
Jimmy Carter also took to the stage and conceded more than an hour before the California polls had closed, which caused some hard feelings. There were some down-ticket races in the state which might have gone differently if every Dem who’d been in line had voted: http://admin.cdn.sos.ca.gov/press-releases/prior/2004/04_075.pdf