What time can we expect the US presidential election result?

What Time Can We Expect The Us Presidential Election Result? What Time Can We Expect The Us Presidential Election Result?
Signs for both President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden at St Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, IN on October 31, 2020. St. Luke's is one of the early voting locations in Marion County. With only three days left until Election Day, voters are turning out in droves to early voting locations nationwide. (Photo by Jason Bergman/Sipa USA).
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James Cox

The allure and drama of US politics appeals to many and plenty of Irish spectators will be staying up for the most important American presidential election in decades.

The election takes place on Tuesday, November 3rd but due to the time difference it will play out in the early hours of Wednesday, November 4th in Irish time.

While this year's election will be further complicated by a historic level of mail-in ballots due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the looming threat of legal challenges to the result, there are still some times that will be key indicators.

What time can we expect results?

The short answer is it is unclear.

In many previous presidential elections, the result was apparent by 11pm EST (4am Irish time), which is when the west coast polls close.

However, a huge rise in mail-in votes this year, over 90 million so far, may delay the result for days or weeks.


Mail-in votes take more time to process and can arrive after election day, as long as they're posted by November 3rd.

If the vote is close enough there may also be a recount.

If the vote is overwhelmingly in favour of one candidate, we may have a good indication of the winner by 4am Irish time.

The current polls suggest this is unlikely.

The winner is normally more or less confirmed between 6am and 7am, this may be uncertain for a number of days or weeks, but there will at least by an indication of who is leading by then based on the swing states.

Here are some times to take note of for anyone following the election tonight (Irish times):

12am: Ballots in Georgia close 7pm EST (midnight in Irish time). There are 16 electoral votes in Georgia and Trump won here by five percentage points in 2016. However, it will be much tighter this time and polls suggests Biden could take a big win here.

12.30am: Just after midnight the results in North Carolina are expected. North Carolina is permitted to count postal ballots before election day. Ohio's result is also expected around this time although absentee ballots will continue to be counted after election day here.


1am: Polls close in Florida at this time, one of the most important swing states. The polls in Pennsylvania, another one of the most important states, close at this time as well. However, the results could take days or weeks to come in from Pennsylvania.


Swing states

The American election system requires a candidate to win at least 270 Electoral College votes to win .

This is where so-called 'swing states' come into play. These are states that can define a presidential election.

According to the most US political analysts the key states are; Florida (29 Electoral College votes) Pennsylvania, which has 20, Michigan (16), North Carolina (15), Arizona (11) and Wisconsin (10).

The candidate that won Florida has gone on to the White House in 13 of the last 14 presidential elections.

The Florida result is expected around 8pm EST (1am Irish time) and this will be a huge indicator of who will end up in the White House, despite the likelihood of recounts and legal challenges.

When is the result confirmed?

The result is never confirmed until December, when the Electoral College votes.

It is normally clear on election night though, when one candidate phones the other to concede.

In 2012, Barack Obama's win was confirmed at 11.38pm EST (3.38am Irish time) and when Trump won in 2016 it was confirmed at 2.29am EST (6.29am Irish time).

With the polls suggesting a tight race this time, and mail-in votes likely to be a big factor, neither candidate is likely to concede on the night this time unless the result is clear.

Trump has repeatedly refused to confirm that he will accept the result while he has also refused to rule out a Supreme Court challenge.

Who will win?

The polls suggest Biden is ahead of Trump.

One recent poll from The New York Times/Siena College showed Biden with a lead in four key states - Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - all of which the current president won in 2016.

The poll is as follows:

Arizona: Biden: 49 / Trump: 43

Florida: Biden: 47/ Trump: 44 

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Pennsylvania: Biden: 49/ Trump: 43

Wisconsin: Biden: 52/ Trump: 41

Results like this would almost certainly mean a Biden victory.

Polls should be taken with a pinch of salt though as the majority predicted a Hillary Clinton victory in 2016.

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