Can presidential elections be ended

USAThe choice - the schedule

Early voters had to wait for hours in New York City to cast their votes (imago images / Levine-Roberts)

In the night of November 3rd to 4th, the most important election of the year will be decided: The United States will choose its president. When and where do the voting booths open? When do you close? And when can you expect the first projections? When is the end result? Here is the full schedule:

Eligible voters in the 50 states and Washington D.C. vote for one of the two presidential candidates and his deputy. The names of the candidates are on the ballot papers, but ultimately the 538 voters of the so-called "Electoral College" are chosen. They then vote for the relevant candidate later, i.e. they take on deputy functions.

Decision in the US presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden (AFP / Angela Weiss / Saul Loeb)

The result of the choice is usually clear during the night. We list when which partial decision is to be expected on US election night and where, and which results from the so-called "swing states" can influence the outcome of the election, because they cannot currently be clearly assigned to one of the two political camps.

  • November 3, 12 noon (CET, hereinafter also):

    At lunchtime here in Central Europe, the polling stations in the first US states open. Some could already be voted in September - and therefore in advance. These were the so-called "early votes". All states may vote in writing or by mail. Due to the corona pandemic, postal voting could play a major role in the decision in the USA.

November 3, 6 p.m .:

On the Canadian border, in the small town of Dixville Notch in the US state of New Hampshire, the 2020 presidential election is already over. Around a dozen eligible voters have voted, and because the number of ballot papers is clear, the counting is done quickly. The first election result is certain. In the previous US presidential election, the number of media representatives in Notch exceeded that of voters because of its symbolic character.

  • November 3, midnight:

    The first polling stations in the US are already closing - in Kentucky and Indiana. Most other Americans still have time to vote.

  • November 4th, 1 a.m .:

    Now the polling stations in Virginia, Vermont and South Carolina are closing - in addition, voting is over in a first so-called "swing state" - in Georgia. Other polling stations in New Hampshire and Florida are also closing

"Whoever wins Ohio moves into the White House"

The decisive factor is the vote in the "Swing States" (picture alliance / dpa / Larry W. Smith)

  • November 4th, 1.30 a.m .:

    It's getting exciting. The decision in two other "swing states" is pending: North Carolina and Ohio. In the USA there is the historically proven phrase "Whoever wins Ohio moves into the White House". John F. Kennedy was the last president to win the election despite losing in Ohio.

  • November 4th, 2 a.m .:

    Polling stations are now being closed in many other US states: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Washington DC. Also first positions in North Dakota, Michigan, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas are collecting the final ballot papers. In addition, decisions are pending in other "swing states": Florida, Maine and Pennsylvania. Now it could gradually become clearer who could win the US presidential election.

  • November 4th, 2.30 a.m .:

    Arkansas closes the polling stations.

  • November 4th, 3 a.m .:

    This is followed by Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York and Wyoming - as well as other "swing states": Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Wisconsin.

  • November 4th, 4 a.m .:

    Montana and Utah are closing the polls, as are the "swing states" of Iowa and Nevada.

On the finishing line

  • November 4th, 5 a.m .:

    Now the media in the USA can declare an election winner - with Hawaii, Idaho, California, Oregon and Washington, the last major states are ending the election for US President. The voices from Alaska are still missing.

  • November 4th, 7 a.m .:

    All polling stations are now closed and an election winner could soon be named if no winner has yet been declared. It is usually customary for the two candidates to talk to each other on the phone at around this time. One of the two admits his defeat so that the other can announce his victory.

Symbol photo of the US election (picture alliance / Geisler-Fotopress)

What's next after that?

  • December 14th:

    The electors meet in the so-called "Electoral College". There they elect the president and his or her deputy.

  • January 6, 2021:

    This is followed by the counting of the votes of the "Electoral College" and the official result of the US election 2020 will be announced.

  • January 20, 2021:

    The president is introduced to his office; unless the incumbent is re-elected and remains in the White House for another term.

Big country - Complicated electoral system - Problematic vote counting

Since there is no national electoral commission in the USA that bundles and summarizes the results from the individual states, counting the votes is a difficult and error-prone undertaking. The AP news agency, for example, goes its own way when counting votes and queries district by district itself. Around 4,000 employees are available to contact the counting stations.

This sometimes leads to unusual but apparently justified decisions: Among other things, AP did not declare a winner in the 2000 presidential election. Instead, the news agency stuck to its stance that in Florida the number of votes for George W. Bush and Al Gore is too close to name a winner. She was right, the Florida election was ultimately decided in court.

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