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Where, when and how to watch the election in the UK

What channel to watch and who to follow

Where, when and how to watch the election in the UK
07 November 2016

You might want to put your fingers in your ears and pretend the US election isn’t taking place and, frankly, who could blame you.

After months of mud slinging, accusations and shock revelations – which have contributed to the general consensus that this has been the dirtiest American election campaign ever witnessed – this Tuesday the Americans finally go to the polls. Either Republican candidate Donald Trump or Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States and, while Hillary has been polling ahead, the election is still seen as too close to call.

Over here in the UK many of us have been watching the campaign with a mix of fear and horror. And, having experienced our very own shock election result earlier this summer there is now, understandably, a general sense of unease at the world we might wake up to on Wednesday morning.

So, for those keen to watch the election result unfold live or looking to make sure they keep on top of breaking news as it happens, we’ve compiled a need-to-know guide of where to watch, who to follow and what you can expect on the day that America goes to the polls. 

What time will we know the result?

If everything goes to plan, you’ll know the result by around 4am UK time on Wedneday 9 November.

Historically, we usually have a firm idea of who’s on the verge of winning – or who has won – between 4 and 5am. However, if any of the states are particularly tight, or either of the candidates make a claim of foul play, there may be a recount. If this occurs in a major swing state, or multiple recounts are demanded, it could slow things down. 

If you want a comprehensive, in-depth read on how the US election actually works, head here. Otherwise, the number you’ll be looking out for at around 4am UK time is the candidate to have amassed 270 electoral college votes. If they’ve got 270, they’ve got the keys to the White House. That’s the short version for you. 

When do things kick off?

Each US state has its own poll opening and closing times, which you can view here, or in the graphic below. Some states have allowed citizens to cast their vote early, but the majority of voters will be headed to polls on 8 November.  

The media will start picking over ‘Exit Polls’ (literally a result of surveys that ask voters how they voted as they exit their local polling station) from 6am US Eastern Standard Time, which is 11:00 UK time, though none of these exit polls will be really credible until their respective polls close. Also, be mindful that UK exit polls from our most recent general election were way off the mark.

As soon as the first states start closing their ballots, they’ll begin counting and returning their results – which should begin around 6pm US Eastern Standard Time, or 23:00 UK time, which is when Indiana closes its polls. From that point onwards, news teams the world over will start scrambling for coverage of the first firm results, combining these with exit poll results. 

What channel can I watch it on?

All the usual suspects:

  • BBC News starts coverage at 21:00 on 8 November
  • BBC One starts its coverage from 23:15, running through until 06:00 on 9 November
  • ITV starts its coverage from 22:40, running until 06:00 on 9 November
  • Sky News begins its coverage from 21:00
  • Fox News (Sky Channel 509) gets election chatter going from 23:00
  • CNN (Sky Channel 579) begins coverage at 23:00
  • Al Jazeera (Sky Channel 691) starts coverage at 22:00

Who should I follow on Twitter?

Twitter has come into its own for breaking political news during Obama’s presidential reign. Here are some insightful individuals you might want to keep an eye on for additional coverage:

  • Dave Weigel – politics writer for Washington Post
  • John Dingell – longest-serving congressmen ever, now retired, with a brilliant “Couldn’t give a damn” attitude
  • Charles P Pierce – political writer for Esquire
  • Jon Snow – Channel 4 news anchor (they’re not doing any live coverage, but Snow is in the US for his SnowBlog)
  • Jake Tapper – CNN news anchor
  • Philip Elliot – TIME correspondent 
  • Dana Perino – former press secretary to George W Bush, Fox News contributor
  • Nate Silver – the go-to stats guy, editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight
  • Susan Page – Washington Bureau Chief of USA Today
  • Ben Smith – BuzzFeed editor-in-chief 
  • Molly Ball – politics writer for The Atlantic 

Where can I go to watch it?

If you’re kicking about London wanting to watch the world walk a knife edge between ‘bad’ and ‘end of the world’, there’s still one major event that hasn’t sold out:

Popbitch Presidential Party – Dinerama, EC2A 3EJ

A £50 ticket will get you a whole night of election coverage (CNN, BBC, NBC), plus food, booze, coffee and party games.