Perhaps you've casted your vote already. Perhaps you'll cast it this evening. But now comes the time to watch and wait. And pray. How long do we have to wait?
FIRST POLLS CLOSE
According to the Politico, the first polls will be closing at 6 p.m. Eastern in most of Indiana and Kentucky. At 7 p.m., the rest of Indiana and Kentucky close along with most of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Here's a helpful map from the Associated Press:
LAST POLLS CLOSE
The last of the polls to close in the continental U.S. will close in California and Washington and the Pacific Time Zones of Oregon and Idaho at 11 p.m. Eastern. Outside the lower 48 states, Hawaii and most of Alaska close at 11 p.m. The outermost Aleutian islands will close at 1 a.m.
The voting results for each state are not announced until polls are closed, but they will be announced as they are counted, even if only 1% of votes have been counted so far. However, even before the polls are closed, news outlets will report the results from exit polls — people leaving the polls are asked by pollsters who they voted for.
CALLING A WINNER
News outlets will call a candidate a winner of the overall presidential race long before all the votes are counted — in some cases even before any votes are counted. What they're doing is making an educated guess based on historical voting patterns, the votes counted so far and exit polling data, according to Quartz. The media can call a race too early and incorrectly, though, especially if it's a close race and not everyone was truthful to the exit pollsters. In the latter example, some voters will not truthfully report who they voted for if they don't think their choice will be popular.
Throughout the night, news outlets will call the race for individual states before they have enough confidence to call the race for the entire country. In the last three presidential elections, for example, the Associated Press called the winner between 11 and 11:38 p.m. Eastern.
OFFICIAL DECLARATION OF A WINNER
According to UK's Metro, it's usually obvious by 11 p.m. Eastern who has won the presidential election. But in the Bush-Gore 2000 election, because of the historically close race and recounts, a winner wasn't declared until the U.S. Supreme Court made the decision on Dec. 12. Even in a normal election, all the votes are not counted until the wee hours of the following morning. Unless a candidate contests the results of an election, the loser will usually concede defeat to the winner when the final results are obvious.
Whoever wins, they won't officially be president until their inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.