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Election Night: When will we know the victor?

About the author
Thomas Ash built openDemocracy's site, and now runs PhilosoFiles
International viewers of the US elections will be hoping that the outcome is decided soon. If it is not, some of us will lose any chance of sleep as we suffer for our time zones. With that in mind, I have compiled a list of early-voting states which may foreshadow the eventual results.

The polls close first (11pm GMT) in Indiana and Kentucky. Both states have historically been Republican, but if Indiana seems close, that will at least be an indication that Obama's support in the polls has not been misleading - something many Democrats are fretting about right now. If John McCain loses Indiana, that may be the first fall in a landslide.

Next come Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia, with polls closing at 12am GMT. Unfortunately, many of these states may be too close for the networks to call any time soon. Victories in Virginia or Florida would give Barack Obama an almost impregnable lead in the electoral college. Success in New Hampshire would give John McCain cause for cheer - the state has voted for the eventual victor in every election since 1964, with the exception of the last one.

Then, at 12:30am GMT, the polls close in North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. This is where it gets interesting: any of these states could flip, and a flip in any one of them would be telling. If North Carolina votes Democratic for the first time since 1976, Obama will have made deep inroads into the South. If he loses Ohio and West Virginia, he will have failed to close the deal with the Clinton Democrats he needs.

By 1am GMT, enough votes should have been cast to settle the race, with 18 states closing their polling stations. That does not mean that we will know the outcome yet - although the earlier results may have given us a pretty good idea. If not, this will be the time that for us to hang onto our sofas as the election workers tally the votes in Pennsylvania - a crucial 'swing' state, and one of McCain's few paths to the White House.

Here's hoping all readers have an enjoyable election night - and return to openUSA well-rested in the morning, for analysis of what the outcome means, and what lies in America's future.


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