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APCO's Guide to Election Night 2016


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As election day in the United States draws near, all eyes will be on early voting numbers and eventually official returns. Our resident election expert, Nicholas Whyte, prepared this guide to knowing what it will take to win and when we're likely to know the outcome. Keep it handy!

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APCO's Guide to Election Night 2016

  2. 2. The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election will be decided by the Electoral College, in which each state has the same number of votes as it has seats in Congress (which, in turn, are allocated on the basis of its population). So, for example, New York has 29 Electoral College votes, with the less populous Rhode Island having only 4. There are a total of 538 Electoral College votes, which makes 270 the magic number required by either candidate to be elected president. • 48 of the 50 states allocate all their electoral votes to the statewide winner • The same is true for the District of Columbia and its three electoral votes • Maine and Nebraska allocate two electoral votes to the statewide winner, and then give one vote to the winner in each of their congressional districts (Maine has two, Nebraska three). Our table lists the 56 declarations, classified by likely outcome and by the expected time of declaration. The expected time of declaration is derived from the time that each result came through in 2012 and 2008. Of course the closest results, which will be the most interesting, are very likely to be delayed precisely because they are close. Our theoretical outcome is derived by looking at recent opinion poll results nationwide and in each state, and applying a correction to calculate what the winning margin in each state or district would be if the two leading candidates were equally strong across the USA as a whole. (It is similar in concept to the Cook partisan voting index (PVI), but is calculated on the basis of this year's opinion polls rather than past election results, and on winning margin rather than difference from the average.) • The margin between the two candidates nationwide is pretty close to the local margin in both Pennsylvania and Colorado, in the middle column of our table. • Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump seems to be about 3% greater in Maine than her national average. Maine is therefore listed here as (D+3). • However, the gap between the candidates in North Carolina seems to be about 3% more favourable for Donald Trump than it is in the country as a whole. North Carolina is therefore listed here as (R+3). Each column brackets the states according to their likely loyalty to one or the other candidate. Hillary Clinton’s strongest prospects, where her lead is 14% more than the national average, have 120 total electoral votes. Another 63 are in states where her support is not as strong but the vote is not seriously in doubt. That means a total of 183 votes, of the necessary 270, which are pretty certain to go her way unless there is an unexpected meltdown. For Donald Trump the numbers are about the same – 163 electoral votes in the strongest states, 28 in the next column, for a total of 191. If neither candidate reaches 270 votes, the election will be decided by the votes of state delegations in the House of Representatives, where the Republican Party has an overwhelming lead. The very first declarations are likely to be from Vermont and Kentucky, but these will be among the least useful indicators of how the race is going. Having said that, if Hillary Clinton’s winning margin in Vermont is much higher than Donald Trump’s in Kentucky, or vice versa, that will be an interesting indicator of how the night is likely to go. Among other early declarations, if Maine confounds pollsters and goes red, it is likely to end up a good night for Donald Trump. If on the other hand North Carolina turns blue, that is very good news for Hillary Clinton. The results overall in the first couple of hours are likely to favor the Republicans. From the declarations before 9pm Eastern Time, we expect Donald Trump to win at least 115 electoral votes, and possibly another 15 from North Carolina; that timeline gives Hillary Clinton only 76 certain electoral votes, with another 6 likely from Maine and New Hampshire. It is fair to say that if the Republicans are to have any hope of winning overall, they need to be significantly in the lead at 9pm to offset the later declarations by more Democratic states. The election will likely be decided in the three middle columns of our table, with 169 electoral votes. We see 60 of those in states and districts more favorable to Hillary Clinton than the average, 75 in states more favorable to Donald Trump than the average, and 29 in Pennsylvania and Colorado, which track the national average closely. If the race overall is close, it may be Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, that provides the final piece in the winning structure for one of the candidates. For more information, and for any media enquiries, please contact Nicholas Whyte on
  3. 3. Time (EST) 7:00 PM 3Vermont (D+22) 8Kentucky (R+20) 3 10 11 4 1 District of Columbia (D by miles) Maryland (D+22) Massachusetts (D+17) Rhode Island (D+13) Maine 1st (D+12) 7 20 3 Connecticut (D+10) Illinois (D+10) Delaware (D+9) 2Maine state (D+3) 15North Carolina (R+4) 1Maine 2nd (R+7) 11 9 7 11 Indiana (R+13) South Carolina (R+13) Oklahoma (R+26) Tennessee (R+20) 8:00 PM 29New York (D+16) 16 10 Michigan (D+1) Wisconsin (D+1) 1Nebraska 2nd (R+6) 6 6 1 6 2 1 3 Mississippi (R+17) Kansas (R+17) Nebraska 1st (R+19) Arkansas (R+22) Nebraska state (R+22) Nebraska 3rd (R+40) Wyoming (R by miles) 9:00 PM 14New Jersey (D+9) 4New Hampshire (D+1) 16Georgia (R+9) 38 9 Texas (R+13) Alabama (R+26) 8:30 PM 13Virginia (D+3) 6Nevada (R+3)12:00 AM 3Montana (R+17)12:30 AM 3Alaska (R+12)1:00 AM Total Electoral College Votes *Numbers in parentheses for each state represent the deviation from the national average, not state by state predictions of the result. 7:30 PM West Virginia (R+29) 5 Strong Clinton Clinton Trump Lean Clinton Must-Win for Clinton Even Must-Win for Trump Lean Trump Strong Trump 4 55 Hawaii (D+26) California (D+18) 12 7 Washington (D+7) Oregon (D+5) 29Florida (R+3) 11Arizona (R+7) 10 4 Missouri (R+12) Idaho (R+25) 11:00 PM 6Iowa (R+5)10:30 PM 5 10 New Mexico (D+4) Minnesota (D+1) 18Ohio (R+6) 6Utah (R+16)10:00 PM 3 8 3 South Dakota (R+18) Louisiana (R+19) North Dakota (R+22) 9:30 PM 11:30 PM 120 63 60 29 75 28 163 9Colorado (even) 20Pennsylvania (even) APCO’S ELECTION NIGHT TIMELINE
  4. 4. APCO’S ELECTION NIGHT 2016 MAP Clinton Trump Strong Clinton Lean Clinton Must-Win for Clinton Must-Win for TrumpEven Lean Trump Strong Trump California (D+18) 55 Hawaii (D+26) 4 Alaska (R+12) 3 Nevada (R+3) 6 Oregon (D+5) 7 Washington (D+7) 12 Montana (R+17) 3 Idaho (R+25) 4 Wyoming (R by miles) 3 Utah (R+16) 6 Colorado (even) 9 Arizona (R+7) 11 New Mexico (D+4) 6 Virginia (D+3) 13 Florida (R+3) 29 Missouri (R+12) 10 Louisiana (R+19) 8 Arkansas (R+22) 6 Kansas (R+17) 6 Nebraska State (R+22) 2 Nebraska 1st (R+19) 1 Nebraska 2nd (R+6) 1 Nebraska 3rd (R+40) 1 South Dakota (R+18) 3 North Dakota (R+22) 3 Minnesota (D+1) 10 Oklahoma (R+26) 7 Texas (R+13) 38 Mississippi (R+17) 6 Iowa (R+5) 6 Illinois (D+10) 20 Wisconsin (D+1) 10 Michigan (D+1) 16 Ohio (R+6) 18 Indiana (R+13) 11 Pennsylvania (even) 20 North Carolina (R+4) 15 South Carolina (R+13) 11 Georgia (R+9) 16 Alabama (R+26) 9 Tennessee (R+20) 11 Kentucky (R+20) 8 WV (R+29) 5 New Jersey (D+9) 14 Delaware (D+9) 3 Maryland (D+22) 10 District of Columbia (D by miles) 3 New York (D+16) 29 New Hampshire (D+1) 4 Massachusetts (D+17) 11 Rhode Island (D+13) 4 Connecticut (D+10) 7 Maine 2nd (R+7) 1 Maine state (D+3) 2 Maine 1st (D+12) 1 Vermont (D+22) 3 120 63 60 75 2829 163 Strong Trump Lean Trump Must-Win for Trump Even Must-Win for Clinton Lean Clinton Strong Clinton