Whether you're dreading it or can't wait for it, anticipation for Election Day is building as the day draws closer. You've prepared a game plan so you're ready for Nov. 8: you've already made sure you're registered to vote, and have found your nearest polling site. It might be overwhelming, but once you cast your ballot, you'll probably want to find out the results as soon as possible. So this begs the question, when will it all be over? What time will the projected presidential election results be announced?
The closing time for voting polls varies from state to state. While most states' polls close by 10 p.m. Eastern Time, Hawaii's are still open until 11 p.m., and in certain parts of Alaska, polls don't close until it's 1 a.m.
On election night, the Associated Press has more than 4,000 political reporters (called stringers) collecting voting data across the country. The AP has set guidelines to determine who they will project as the winner of each election:
The responsibility for calling races rests with experienced staff in each state. They are armed with on-the-ground knowledge that no other national news organization can match. Plus, they have information on demographics, absentee and other voting history and political issues that may affect the outcome of races they must call. On election night, they are assisted by experts in AP’s Washington bureau who examine exit poll numbers and votes as they are counted. A “decision desk” in Washington, headed by the Washington bureau chief, has the final signoff on all top-of-the-ticket calls.
The New York Times also follows these guidelines.
Media projections about which candidate is the winner have come as early as 11 p.m Eastern Time in past elections. On Election Day 2012, many media outlets declared that Obama had enough electoral votes to win the presidency once it was announced he had won Ohio at approximately 11:15 Eastern Time.
In 2012, ABC News projected that Obama was the winner by 11:24 p.m. By 11:26 p.m., The New York Times reported that CBS News, CNN, and NBC News had all projected that Obama had won the election. By 1 a.m. on Nov. 7, Romney conceded defeat — and some wondered why it took him so long.
However, all of the electoral votes were not actually counted until Nov. 10, according to 270 To Win, a website dedicated to the United States' presidential election history. Numbers from all 50 states and D.C. were tallied to reveal that Obama won 332 electoral votes.
The timing of when the announcement is made may be especially crucial for this year's race. That's because Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said that he will accept the election results — if he's the winner. But if Hillary Clinton is the projected winner, Trump said he may contest those results.
"I would accept a clear election result, but I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result," he said at a campaign speech in Reno, Nevada, according to CNN.