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Election Night

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Every so often, in a democratic country, there are elections. (Unless it's that kind of democracy.) Therefore there must be election results.

An exit poll will be made and there will be intense discussion about it until the results start to trickle in.

In fiction, this is what happens during an Election Day Episode.

Features of UK Election Nights:

  • The Swingometer: an arrow that swings left or right depending on whether voters have swung left or right. Operated by Peter Snow until 2005. (The Swingometer is designed to deal with swings of up to 30%. In 2015, when the SNP managed to take nearly every Scottish seat irrespective of how safe it previously was, there were some swings that were so big the graphics couldn't cope!)
    • Other silly computer graphics are also common, including holograms in the 2010 coverage.
      • Especially when Jeremy Vine imitates a cowboy (2008 local elections).
  • Live declarations of important seat results (such as ministers in marginal seats, a possible minor party win, or seats that are considered essential for a party to win).
    • Protest/parody candidates who want a bit of publicity tend to contest these - such as the Monster Raving Loony Party and Lord Buckethead. It's traditional in particular for the Prime Minister to perform his/her post-count speech with several people standing at the back dressed stupidly and looking stupid.
  • The General Elections (not local or European elections) will most likely have Rick Wakeman's "Arthur" as its theme. (omitted in the 2001, 2010 and 2015 elections when more generic music was used).
  • David Dimbleby (until his last election night in 2017).note  It's theorised that he lives in cryogenic storage and only comes out to do elections and Question Time.
  • Sir Robin Day (until 1992)
  • John Curtice, a political scientist who helps produce the official exit poll (predicting how many seats each party will win), has become something of a cult figure (particularly in 2015, when the exit poll was completely at odds with every previous poll, and in the 40 minutes before results started coming in he was visibly terrified that it was going to be wrong).

Features of US Election Nights:

  • Dan Rather's weird comments on CBS (until 2004)
  • Live declarations of Congressional seat results, especially your regional ones as the broadcast networks set aside around 10 minutes per half-hour for the local affiliates' coverage.
  • The "Red State/Blue State" map, where states won by Republicans are colored red, and states won by Democrats are colored blue. This color scheme did not become standard until after the 2000 election. Color schemes before then had varied. Not by much, but some news agencies used to use red for Democrats and blue for Republicans, and to this day "polls still open" "too close to call", "independent/third-party" and so on are not at all standardized (although where they have to be included, the Greens have a pretty solid hold on green).
  • Results coming in waves at the top of the hour (and occasionally just after the half-hour marks) between 7 PM and midnight Eastern time, as the country is spread across six time zonesnote  and each state sets its own time for when the polls close.
  • Presidential election years only: Wild Math Guessing as the results come in and pundits try to figure out how each candidate can get to 270 electoral votes with what they have and the remaining states. If they talk about a candidate having "flip" Texas or California to winnote , it's basically already over.
    • In midterm years: Full election coverage on PBS and cable news channels only while the commercial broadcast TV networks show regularly scheduled entertainment programming with news breaks only when new results are available.
      • For stations which haven't upgraded their graphics for a long time, all shows are aired in in Squash-O-Vision to display election results and let viewers know moment by moment the newest results of that critical East Sioux Falls school board race.
  • Graphics one-upmanship between networks. CNN had a hologram. A freaking hologram, not to mention the Magic Wall map. This was subverted by the late Tim Russert of NBC, who achieved awesomeness by having a dry-erase board and a marker. Most famously, he wrote "Florida! Florida! Florida!" on it when the 2000 election came down to the controversial Florida vote. Nowadays NBC literally uses Rockefeller Center for its coverage, renaming it "Election Plaza" for the night, placing the electoral map on the ice rink, and using the famous 30 Rock itself for the electoral count, shining red and blue lights on the side of the building.
  • Very, very fancy bumpers and opens. NBC has gone from this to lavish animations. (Rachel Maddow says she's extremely fond of the 2008 one.)
  • For Presidential elections: intense and breathless monitoring of the "swing" states, i.e. states that aren't reliably Republican or Democrat and therefore the results actually are up in the air. (Massachusetts, for instance, is going to go to the Democratic candidate, period. Ditto, say, Oklahoma for the Republicans.) These are the states that actually decide elections. The usual suspect for all this wild speculation is Ohio, where the returns are tracked obsessively and to the minute.

Features of Canadian Election Nights:

  • Rick Mercer.
  • Peter Mansbridge.
  • Parliamentary districts are known as "ridings".
  • Western blackouts. Western Canadians have to wait until their polls close before they can find out the results in other provinces. It's the law.
    • This means all streaming of radio and television in Canada comes to a screeching halt. The election authorities got really touchy in the April 2011 election about Eastern poll results being mentioned at all on Twitter and Facebook before closing, though they didn't actually charge anyone with committing a crime.
    • Thankfully, the blackout rules were lifted a couple of weeks before the 2015 election, allowing people across the nation access to live election results as soon as the polls closed in Atlantic Canada.
  • Similar to the US, party colour maps are applied. As of 2011, 5 different colours have been applied (Liberal red, Conservative blue, New Democrat orange, Bloc Quebecois light blue, and Green, um, green).

Features of Australian Election Nights:

  • The population being reminded of the more bizarre Parliament seat names, such as "Mayo" and "Batman".
  • Antony Green.
  • A frontbencher from each party playing a game of civility chicken.
  • Boneheads trying to get on camera in the background behind the broadcasters, especially on Channel 7.
  • A comedy group getting just as many, if not more viewers than the major channels as they cover the election their way.
  • Both candidates saying the other candidate winning will be the end of the world, and the loser then conceding that it's not in a civil manner.

Features of New Zealand Election Nights:
  • Breaking live crosses to the Prime Minister's house every time his wife goes out the garage to get more beer, or a car clearly marked "Pizza Hut" pulls in the front gate.
  • Running commentary on the Epsom electorate vote results as they come in.

Features of German Election Nights:
  • Polls closing at 18:00 sharp - first projections (based on exit polls) at precisely this moment - all politicians finding some reason to be the actual winner of the election
  • The main news (at 20:00) dominated by the election coverage, even it is only a snoozer in the Saarland.
  • A group interview with the leaders of the parties that made it above 5% or were expected to (whether or not certain right wing leaders should be included given their result is Serious Business) - often the "I have won" goes on there as well, most disastrously in This 2005 example that may or may not have ended the political career of Gerhard Schröder.
  • Vows to "talk with all democratic parties", often with snark directed at either the Left Party or the AfD
  • Jörg Schönenborn analyzing poll results, including ever more bizarre or irrelevant aspects (e.g. how many FDP voters think the SPD candidate is honest and trustworthy)
    • A particular favorite are the "voter migrations" (Wählerwanderung) showing where the gains (or losses) of the several parties came from (or went to)