There's not much time left until Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump claims victory. Like most of us, you're probably hoping to keep up with the 2016 election results live, which might have you wondering how late you'll have to be up. Here I'll try to estimate what time the election results will be called based on past elections and what we know about this year's contest.
Out of the past 10 elections, five of them have been called between 11 p.m. and 11:40 p.m ET. The quickest election to be called was Reagan's 1980 landslide, in which he ultimately won 44 states, and NBC News announced the winner at 8:15 p.m. The most drawn-out election decision was the infamous 2000 contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore, with a recount of Florida's extremely close results not allowing for an official decision until Dec. 12 of that year.
The other three elections not called between 11 p.m. and midnight are:
- 2004, where George W. Bush was declared winner at roughly 11:20 a.m. the morning after Election Day.
- 1996, where Bill Clinton was officially re-elected at around 9 p.m.
- 1976, with Jimmy Carter beating Gerald Ford at approximately 3:30 a.m.
However, it looks like unless an election is a tight race or hit by a huge controversy, they tend to be over before midnight about half the time.
Despite recent headlines about the election "tightening" after the revival of Clinton's email scandal, the race is actually still not very close in the polls. FiveThirtyEight's general election forecast still gives Clinton over 68 percent chance of winning, at time of writing. Clinton's average on RealClearPolitics has lowered since the announcement, but most of these numbers come from surveys taken before the new email story. Other election forecast models, such as The Huffington Post's model and the The New York Times' Upshot, give the Democrat between 84-98 percent chances of being the night's victor.
It's worth noting that while it appears that Clinton has been losing steam, the polls showing a Trump rise only show this as a result of a boost in his support, not a decline in Clinton support. In other words, the numbers don't reflect a decision by Clinton supporters to switch sides; instead, they are a reflection of Trump gaining reluctant Republicans who, up until now, hadn't given him their support, as well as undecided voters who are choosing to cast their votes for the GOP nominee.
With this in mind, a catastrophic change for Clinton in the electoral map, while possible, isn't very probable. Especially since most of the American public has made up their minds on who to vote for, and this email story is not something that's likely to sway those who are planning to vote for the Democrat. All of this is to say that we will most likely not see a scenario like what we saw in 2000, where the results were so close that several recounts were necessary.
Another factor that will help this election be an easy one to call is the large number of early voters. Over 22 million people had already cast their votes by the end of October, and Clinton was the candidate coming out on top in swing states. Since results are often announced based on the data available from early voters, this will certainly aid us in not having to watch the news all night. With the amount of early voters and the way things are looking for Clinton, we could see results by midnight.
That said, the 2016 election is never done throwing surprises our way, and it's entirely possible that we'll get yet another thrown at us on the final night. If I had to predict what could possibly lead to a delay, I'd say it might have something to do with Trump refusing to concede and possibly threatening to sue the government with claims of rigging. I hope I'm wrong.