America is all set to choose its 45th president as presidential elections are underway on 8 November, the Tuesday following the first Monday in November, the traditional date to cast vote in America. From pre-dawn voting in New Hampshire to late-night poll closes in Alaska, it's sure to be a long day. In fact the first ballots were already cast on Tuesday 10:30 am in a sleepy hamlet of Dixville Notch in New Hampshire, with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton winning the contest.
It is instructive to note here that unlike in India, where the Election Commission announces final results days after various rounds of polling, every US state counts and declares its result once the polling is over.
You can stay on top of the US election coverage with Firstpost.com's LIVE feed catching all the action as it happens, or otherwise, here is the list of key states and what all you need to track. (All times in IST)
While no one can take a sure shot guess as to when the poll results will start pouring in but as Associate Press speculates, the first burst of results will emerge when polls close at 5:30 am on Wednesday (IST) in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.
You can expect more big blasts of numbers just after 6:30 and 9:30 am on Wednesday when polls close in a combined 30 states and the District of Columbia. Results from a batch of states including big kahuna California, with 55 electoral votes should be out by 9:30 am on Thursday, while Alaska, where polls close at 11:30 am on Thursday, brings up the rear.
Tuesday 10:30 am
New Hampshire goes to poll, where Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is off to a very early lead, winning over the voters of three New Hampshire precincts by a 32-25 margin over Hillary Clinton. Polls in the tiny New Hampshire towns of Dixville, Hart's Location and Millsfield opened just after midnight Tuesday (local time) and closed as soon as everyone had voted. These die-hard voters are proud to have the first word on the big vote. Clinton won more votes in Dixville and Hart's Location, but Trump was the overwhelming favorite in Millsfield, with a 16-4 edge.
Wednesday 4:30 am
Polls begin to close in too Republican stronghold states Indiana and Kentucky.
Wednesday 5:30 am
Poll closes in traditionally Republican West Virginia, along with other swing states like South Carolina and Florida among others, which remain key states in defining who takes over the White House. According to a report in Financial Times, people can expect a delay in Florida results while other states may announce the lead within minutes of closing of polls. According to the report in the 2012 elections, a winner was not declared in Florida until days after the election while in virginia results were declared after a few hours.
Wednesday 6:30 am
Polls close in a bunch of states including District of Columbia, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Other states where polls close are: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas.
Thursday 8:30 am
Results from California, Utah, Nevada and Montana should be out by this time. Utah results may be interesting to observe as the state may vote for independent candidate Evan McMullin, who's apparently drawing significant support there and giving Trump heartburn in a state that should be a lock for him.
Thursday 10:30 am
This would be the earliest possible time, by when the results could be called out. America will have either Donald trump or Hillary Clinton, first woman to be achieve the feat, as its President. If Clinton emerges the victor, it will be a historic moment for women as she shatters that "highest, hardest glass ceiling." A victory speech would be one for the ages.
However, in the event that neither candidate touches the magical number of 270, the minimum number of electoral votes needed to claim the throne, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives will decide who the next president should be. And with the Republican Party in disarray over Trump's candidancy, exit polls will help show how many GOP voters choose to split their tickets. Chances are that some Republicans leaders may reject Trump while voting for GOP candidates in Senate and House races.
Early tea leaves
Meanwhile, for an early update on how things are going, keep an eye on Virginia results in the presidential contest. If Clinton doesn't get a winner's call there by 7:00 - 8:00 am on Tuesday morning, it could be a positive sign for Trump. Watch Indiana for an early indicator in the tug-of-war for control of the Senate; if Evan Bayh can manage a comeback, that'll be a good sign for Democrats hoping to retake the Senate.
How exit polls work
Data collected from polling-place interviews with voters will offer a wealth of information to help explain who voted for whom, and why people voted the way they did. Among the questions to be answered by the exit polls: Do voters cast ballots for their candidates enthusiastically or holding their noses? Do blacks give strong backing to Clinton after recent worries about their turnout in early voting? Who wins college-educated whites, who typically skew Republican but are being courted by Clinton? In a race so often roiled by Trump's comments about women, what does the gender gap look like? Did people care about Clinton's problems with her private email setup? Were they worried about Trump's temperament? From whom did third-party candidates siphon votes? There's so much to absorb, this data will be sliced, diced, mined and pondered for months.
Watch out for Twitter reactions
Keep a second screen handy to get the full election night picture. Four years ago, Obama went to Twitter with his first reaction once the votes clearly pointed toward his re-election. Trump's tweetstorms are legendary. On the poll night in 2012, he tweeted that the election was a "total sham and a travesty" and encouraged "a revolution in this country." He deleted some of the tweets after NBC's Brian Williams said Trump had "driven well past the last exit to relevance and veered into something closer to irresponsible." After that, Trump started tweeting rants aimed at Williams.
What if Trump loses?
The question has been dangling out there: Will Trump accept the results of the presidential elections if he loses? "I'll keep you in suspense," he said at the last debate. The world is waiting for his answer.
Wait there's more!
The presidential race has sucked up most of the oxygen over the past year, but there will be lots more to take in on the world's most keenly watched presidential elections, with control of the Senate and House at stake, 12 states electing governors, and assorted ballot proposals around the country. In the House: Republicans hold a 247-188 majority, including three vacancies. Democrats could pick up 10 or more seats, perhaps even more than 20, but it is unlikely that they will pick up enough seats to dominate the House. In the Senate: Republicans are furiously working to protect their 54-46 majority. Control of the Senate is likely to come down to just over a half-dozen top races. A dozen governor's offices also are up for grabs, at least seven appearing competitive. Among issues on ballot proposals: the death penalty, gun control and marijuana legalization.
Every election has its glitches; this one could have more than most. It's the first presidential election without a key enforcement provision of the federal Voting Rights Act, and 14 states have new registration or voting restrictions. Expect to see reports of frustration, long lines, names missing from voter rolls, etc. Beyond that, Trump for months has been complaining that the election is rigged against him and warning of widespread voter fraud, which is sure to stir up emotions. This is also the first time that a real time coverage of how the candidates are doing in the polls will be available.
With inputs from agencies