Ah, the Electoral College — that thing you learned about in 8th grade that sounded like horsecrap when Ms. Corsiglia went over it in your unit on the U.S. Constitution in 1996 and still sounds like horsecrap today. Seriously? you thought while looking at electoral college maps. Some votes counting more than others? Winner-take-all states making candidates pay particular attention to some states while completely ignoring others? We don’t actually vote for president?
Still, like a bad hangover, we’re stuck with it — at least for the time being — so Tuesday night will all about basic arithmetic, with the different news outlets tallying up Electoral College votes in the hopes that they’ll get to be the first to call the race for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It could take all night — or longer — but there are only so many different iterations of the results map that are possible. Still, whether we’re toasting the victor/mourning our loss early in the evening or watching the decision desks into the wee hours of the morning, Election Night 2016 might be one of the highest-stakes elections in modern memory.
With that in mind, we’ve prepared five different Electoral Maps for you to prepare yourself for the different eventualities Tuesday night.
The Clinton Blowout
This Democrat’s fantasy of an Electoral Map assumes a Clinton tidal wave — this map allocates every state where Clinton has a 20 percent or greater chance in the current FiveThirtyEight Polls-Only forecast to the Dems. Still, this map — which gives Alaska to Clinton — has her coming up three electoral votes shy of Obama’s historic win in 2008 (though, in her defense, this is due more to shifts in the Electoral College apportionment following the 2010 Census; if Obama won those same states today he’d only have 359 Electoral Votes).
The Clinton Nail-Biter
This scenario is the one that’s going to keep us up all night — and after the nightmare of 2000, where many of us went to bed thinking Al Gore had won, only to wake up to a messy post-election legal battle, I won’t be going to bed without a decision. And given that Nevada tips the balance in this scenario, we might be deep into Nov. 9 before we know who won.
The Trump Nail-Biter
Not to give you nightmares, but the only difference between this map and the Clinton nail-biter is I’ve flipped Nevada. This is the tightest scenario I can come up with going into tomorrow (without, say, giving Clinton Idaho or Trump Connecticut). If Trump wins New Hampshire and Maine’s 2nd Congressional District earlier in the night, you should prepare for a long evening.
The Trump Blowout
This terrifying conjecture gives Trump every state that FiveThirtyEight projects he has a 15 percent chance or greater of winning — and even handicapping him like that still puts him shy of Clinton’s blowout of 362 votes. This has more to do with the “blue wall” — vote rich states like California, New York, and Illinois being so deep blue will always be a problem for the GOP — but still, while unlikely, it’s not out of the question.
In the end, this is my nightmare scenario. There are few different ways to reach a 269-269 tie, and this one is as remotely plausible as the others (FiveThirtyEight gives a straight tie a .6 percent chance). The other scenario that would have the same basic effect would be if Utah ends up giving its electoral votes to Evan McMullin, depriving Clinton or Trump of a 270 vote majority. At that point, the vote goes to the House of Representatives, and then things could get really ugly.