A question about election-night returns

I can't remember how 2004's election-night returns rolled out on TV.  Do the networks start showing returns as soon as each state's polls close, or do they wait until all the polls close everywhere to report on anything?  

I am assuming it is the former since the latter would have meant staying up very late, and everyone knows I don't like to stay up late.


cj said...

I'm pretty sure they'll report on a state as soon as its polls close. If their exit polls tell them that it's not even close, I think they'll even call a state for one candidate or another right when the state's polls close.

This means the outcome of the election could become clear *very* early Tuesday night. Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Missouri will all be closed by 8:00 EST.

Here's a neat chart of poll closing times.

Grendel said...

I'll bet Ohio and Florida will be close, and they won't call them for a while. But Indiana closes at 6pm Eastern. They could call it within a couple of hours, and if Obama wins Indiana there's no way he hasn't won the election. If he loses Indiana within 4 points or so, I still think there's no way he hasn't won the election. (Karl Rove has already put Indiana in Obama's column.)

Trevor Jackson said...

If Virginia holds to the polling models and delivers a big win to Obama and Pennsylvania does too, McCain's only avenues to the win close. McCain can't win without Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, if he loses Virginia. Every other state return is gravy. I'm knocking on wood, but it looks pretty good for Obama.

It's all about senate races now. Real junkies will stay up to watch the polls close in Alaska at midnight CST. Will recently convicted felon Ted Stevens (yaaargh!) still squeak out a win over Begich? Will Gov. Palin get to appoint his replacement when he's forced to resign?

cj said...

By the way, I'd be happy to call the election for you right now -- then you could get a good night's sleep next Tuesday!

Ian said...

Generally, if the exit polls show a commanding lead for one or another candidate, the networks will call the state as soon as all its polls are closed. Otherwise, Wolf Blitzer or whoever will intone that the state is "too close to call." As I understand it, the AP and others have a staff of data nerds mining exit poll data to determine when "too close" becomes "close enough."

(If you watch NBC or at least MSNBC, the anchors sometimes tip their hand, calling a state "too early to call" as opposed to "too close." Keith Olbermann is notorious for this, but I think he's off the anchor desk for election night.)

Just FYI from my neighborhoood: Missouri closes its polls at 7 local time (8 EST), but because St. Louis and Kansas City are notoriously late reporters, I'd be surprised if the state is called before 10 EST. And don't panic if the state's raw vote totals on the networks' crawls look bad at first.

If they look *good* early, it's a fucking blowout.