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Election night

Jon Williams Jon Williams | 17:18 UK time, Tuesday, 6 November 2012

So after more than a year of campaigning, it all comes down to this. On radio, TV and online, the BBC is gearing up for a big night - in English and 27 other languages. And not just one big night, but 51 separate contests.

Unlike most other countries, the US election is not a nationwide "popular poll". Instead, the president is elected by an Electoral College of 538 delegates from each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. How many come from each, depends on their population. So as the votes pile up, it's the way each state votes that will decide the election.

In most states, thanks to exit polls, it may be possible to project a result the moment the polls close. Working with our friends at ABC News, the BBC will "call" the results, state by state, based on those projections. In states that are too close to call, electronic voting will mean we're able to follow the counting in real time, based on the number of voting precincts reporting.

The first real test will come at midnight GMT when polls close in six states. Virginia, with 13 electoral college votes, will be the first of the battle ground states to report. Half an hour later at 00:30 GMT, polls will also close in Ohio with its 18 votes and North Carolina with 15 votes. As the polls close, the BBC will call the result in each based on projections made by ABC News.

Using the results service on the BBC News website, you'll be able to follow the same data driving the BBC's results system on TV and radio. They will include the state results, the resultant change in the Electoral College vote, and will colour the state and national maps accordingly - red for Republican states, blue for Democrats.

The target for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is to hit a figure of 270 - winning the majority of the 538 delegates to the Electoral College. Once one of the candidates passes the magic 270 total, this election will be over. Then - and only then - will the BBC call the election. A big night and, possibly, a long night beckons.

Jon Williams is world news editor.


  • Comment number 1.

    What makes anyone at the BBC begin to think that the majority of people in this country are remotely interested in the US Presidential elections? Your coverage is completely OTT as is the size and number of your reporting team in America no doubt at huge License paying viewers expense. To put the US elections on the main news before reporting any home news to the British people is a disgrace.

  • Comment number 2.

    Thank you for the succinct explanation of the US presidential electoral system.

    Could you also give one, on the way in which democratic legitimacy passes in the EU from its people, to the Council Of Ministers, and the latter's relationship with the European Parliament, please?

    A lot of people here seem to think it's unaccountable, and would benefit from being so disabused.

  • Comment number 3.

    The sycophantic coverage of the Obama campaign is painful to watch. I was amused by one readers comment who said she thought Mark Mardell favoured Obama 'a bit' - hilarious. I suppose at least the picture of the supporter in an Obama hat wasn't a BBC journalist this time. You know, what with all that impartiality & everything.

  • Comment number 4.

    I wonder if Yo Bama :) will stick a feather in his hat, l had Romney for 200.

    Life moves on. Angela is here to whisper to David that Greece is kaput and we must pull together to save naughty German banks and their investors. That is the real probby, ya know. All that over valued asset investment and the piles of untaxed cash generated.

  • Comment number 5.

    BBC must be happy their man Obama won! I expect there will be champagne bottles strewn around broadcasting tonight, as Jane Garvey, 5 Live, said they were when Labour won in 1997. All very impartial.

  • Comment number 6.

  • Comment number 7.

    I understand that the BBC had around 100 people in the US to cover this election. That is a staggering waste of licence payer's money and something the Director General needs to answer for.

  • Comment number 8.

    7.At 07:46 7th Nov 2012, JWP.

    Absolutely right. This is a disgrace and there should now be a full scale Leveson style inquiry into the BBC including this, the left wing bias, Savile, tax, and the other scandals at the BBC

  • Comment number 9.

    I don't see why the BBC should be any more required to be "impartial" between democrat and republican in the US, than it should between say, reformer and military in Burma.

    It is a different country, but I think it did OK anyway on that count.

    The word has no absolute meaning in any case.

  • Comment number 10.

    Re Bias

    Should the BBC reflect:

    1. British opinion
    2. Global opinion or
    3. American opinion?

  • Comment number 11.

    Would the husband of a future female US president be referred to at the "First Gentleman"?

  • Comment number 12.

    9.&10. The BBC is required to report impartially under the charter through which they are taxpayer funded. In UK you are forced to pay for the BBC & if you don't pay you will go to prison. The BBC's opinon is an increasing part of the output with which I and many other taxpayers are increasingly unhappy & would like to see a full scale inquiry into that & other scandals.

  • Comment number 13.

    12. "if you don't pay you will go to prison"

    Is this true? If you don't have a device that can receive BBC television, you don't need a licence. But even if you do and haven't paid the fee I suspect it is very unlikely you would be imprisoned.

  • Comment number 14.

    To PhilSpace #11
    So when it comes to the American election it doesn't matter if the BBC reflects British, Global, American or your opinion, you'll still be unhappy.

  • Comment number 15.

    13. wmfs TV Licencing: 'You must be covered by a valid TV Licence if you watch or record television programmes as they're being shown on TV. It makes no difference what equipment you use - a laptop, PC, mobile phone, digital box, DVD/video recorder or a TV set, you still need a licence.' Prison is the final sanction, but in the end if you refuse to pay you'll be highly likely detained at HMP.

  • Comment number 16.

    14. _marko

    Yes, because I buy a newspaper for opinion - they can print what they like as I am not forced to buy it. But the BBC are publicly funded and their opinion should not enter in to it - they should just report the news in an impartial manner.

  • Comment number 17.

    Wondering when next BBC Eds would step into the open again.

    2.Eddy from Waring

    Explanations have never been their forte; especially now Mr. Patten has explained how uniquely holding power to account actually works.

    13. wmfs

    Semantics can be cute. In 2012, they are crass. Leave the suspecting of likelihoods to BBC editorial; they're immune from consequence.

  • Comment number 18.

    The BBC's coverage today is outrageous. It is so biased and OTT it's unwatchable.

    It is high time the BBC was reeled in.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm really surprised the Editor's blog hasn't been updated since election night. Yesterday's news is soooo absurd on the BBC!

  • Comment number 20.

    Boring isn't the word.. happy it's over now. Agree with comments about bias but glad BBC was biased in the right direction! Romney would've taken us a step closer to realising the Mayan 2012 prediction! Loved this Obama-Romney cartoon which gave the best take on this election for me.

  • Comment number 21.

    @Michelle Summers - biased in the right direction... seriously?! If you look at any objective analysis of Obama's track record since 2008, the thing that stands out most is failure and non-delivery... hardly anything right about it.

  • Comment number 22.

    the lesser of two evils won.

  • Comment number 23.

    Obama’s victory speech promised another dose of Hope and Change.

    It was supposedly Albert Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

  • Comment number 24.

    Now the election is over (Thank God) I would like to see some analysis of probable/possible Cabinet changes at State, Treasury, Defense, level etc. Is Hilary going to serve for 4 more years? She seems terribly tired and stressed, poor woman!

  • Comment number 25.

    23.At 23:58 7th Nov 2012, newsaholic_professor wrote

    Quite more of the same old, same old. As the effects of last nights party wear off and the BBC remove the champagne bottles from broadcasting house. America is waking up to realise that re-electing Barry hasn't created one more job or paid off one more cent of the deficit - and it will not.

  • Comment number 26.

    how much did this coverage cost the British tax payer and why so many presenters needed?

  • Comment number 27.

    on somewhat puzzled.
    Why has/is the BBC still devoting headline space, valuable radio and TV air-time to an event that took place 2 days (48 hours) or more ago?
    OK, so President Obama won. Move on. You spent, what, 20 minutes on Arab spring elections, but how long on this?

  • Comment number 28.

    Jon, with respect, does the BBC have an unlimited budget?
    Or are the BBC billing US citizens to pay for this? Thought not!

    Shouldn't BBC be covering 'business successes' and 'entrepreneurs' on the streets of Bristol, Cardiff, Northampton, Peterborough in the UK NATIONAL news?

    Oh how dumbed down we have become to be the green sceptred isle-sorry, I mean 'shafted' isle!

  • Comment number 29.

    @7: I'm fairly certain that the election night programme was simulcasted on BBC World News and/or BBC America, which aren't funded by the licence fee payer. It means that the cost would have been shared between the licence fee funded BBC and BBC Worldwide (the commercial arm). Also I imagine that some of the reporters are permanently based in America.

  • Comment number 30.

    'BBC World News and/or BBC America, which aren't funded by the licence fee payer.'

    Great, then let's put an end to the tax on owning a TV which is about as absurd as taxing the ownership of a microwave oven, so that the people of the UK don't have to continue to fund this non stop left-wing nonsense daily spouted by the BBC.

  • Comment number 31.

    To PhilSpace #30

    I hope you can understand the perspective that bankers and people who've accumulated or inherited loads of cash shouldn't have the greatest influence on media and force their advertising on everyone.

  • Comment number 32.

    Please let it be known, what the heck has the U.S election got to do with us and why was it inflicted upon us???

  • Comment number 33.

    31. At 16:54 8th Nov 2012, _marko

    Katty Kay @KattyKayBBC
    A: After Romney's super succesful trip to London this summer, Brits were mildly relieved not to see him elected #askkattybbc

    But this lady should?

    Spoken for and at without choice, and not much else allowed back.

  • Comment number 34.

    To JunkkMale #33

    Maybe, but when analysing the statement we should be asking was it nonsense or not? Did the statement accurately reflect British opinion? And there's still the question of would a correct impartial statement reflect British, American or a global viewpoint. What's your expectation in this case?

    To George #32

    because it affects the rest of the world?

  • Comment number 35.

    33. That's exactly the kind of left wing bias to which I referred. Incredible.

    31. No one forces you to watch anything you don't want to, or buy any particular newspaper. The only thing you are forced to do is buy a TV licence if you want to watch TV in the UK, so that you can fund the liberal left wing bias of the BBC.

  • Comment number 36.

    To PhilSpace #35

    "No one forces you to watch, ..or buy.." apart from watching the adverts and paying for the advertising in the products you buy!

  • Comment number 37.

    36. At 10:38 9th Nov 2012, _marko

    No, you still have a choice. Or to you only buy unadvertised products?

    Not a great hole to excavate further.

  • Comment number 38.

    34. At 00:16 9th Nov 2012, _marko

    Expectations, as much else, now limited by the new BBC character count.

    What 'you' feel should be asked is noted.

    If a BritBC journo presumes to speak for all Brits abroad, impartially or not, maybe best first to ask?

  • Comment number 39.

    because it affects the rest of the world?

    Well, these guys still seem stuck over there. Never been much for post-mortems myself. (Note the Graun piece they also seem less keen on sharing).

    The BBC does seem to shine lights...& hold power to account 'selectively'.


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