Will you be in the USA for election night 2016? It’s certainly been a long time coming, and by now you might feel like wearing a blindfold and sticking your fingers in your ears until it’s all over. But if you’re a committed politics junkie who just can’t get enough, we’ve got the lowdown on where to celebrate/commiserate with like-minded folk, on what will surely be one of the most momentous nights of the 21st century so far.
Of course, the first thing to understand is how it all works. Unlike the UK, in national elections Americans vote for presidential candidates, not constituency MPs. Yet they still don’t directly elect their president – it’s all down to a process called the electoral college.
Established by the founding fathers, the electoral college system was set up as a way of ensuring all states have a voice regardless of their size, and to make sure the popular vote is validated by a group of suitably qualified citizens. Every state, and the District of Columbia, has a set number of electoral college ‘electors’ equal to the amount of senators and representatives in their state – there are 538 electors across the whole country – and the candidate who can get over the crucial theshhold of 270 will become the next president of the USA. What makes it so nailbiting is that nearly all states operate a ‘winner takes all’ approach (except Maine and Nebraska, who use a form of proportional representation) so for example, the candidate who wins the majority of California’s electors will walk away with all 55 of that state’s electoral college votes. That’s why swing states – like Florida which has 29 votes – are such important battlegrounds.
Confused? Read this US Government primer for a deeper explanation of how the US electoral college system works. But now, it’s back to the most important bit – where to watch the election results roll in. We’ve got you covered in five of the most popular spots on our route map, so all you need to do is find your favourite pantsuit and a can of orange spray tan, and you’re all set.
- Penn Quarter: There’ll be no need to crane your neck at neighbourhood sports bar Penn Social: you’ll get a good view of the 22-foot HD TV screen from anywhere in the house. Happy hour starts at 4pm and continues until polling closes at 7pm, but Samuel Adams beers will be $4 all night.
- U Street Corridor: Policy Restaurant and Lounge will be holding an all-night election happy hour, with TVs on both floors, specially-priced small plates and bargain $6.50 cocktails.
- Meatpacking District, Manhattan: How about an electoral game of chance? For an achingly hip evening of Election Night Bingo head to the supercool Biergarten at The Standard High Line hotel. The game starts at 9.30pm and will not be like your average afternoon at Mecca.
- Midtown, Manhattan: For a night to remember in the heart of Manhattan, rooftop bar 230 Fifth will be hosting a free-to-enter election night viewing party from 4pm onwards. Bag your seat early and enjoy all-night drink specials, surround sound, and plenty of large TVs and projector screens.
- Lincoln Park: Award-winning brewpub chain HopCat‘s newly opened Chicago venue will host an Election Night Watch Party extravaganza. Plonk yourself in front of one of the TVs from 7pm, and tuck into half-price pizza and wings and $3.50 specials on wine and local draft beer.
- Ravenswood: Friendly neighbourhood tavern Fountainhead invites all and sundry to ‘drown their political sorrows’ from 6pm onwards at its ‘Grab ’em by the Pint’ election night special in conjunction with Chicago-based craft brewery Alarmist Brewing.
- Downtown: RSVP to get tickets for the election night viewing party at the 1,600-seat Theatre at Ace Hotel; a fabulously restored 1920s movie palace. With a three-storey, 2,300 square foot lobby, incredible vaulted ceiling and state-of-the-art digital projection and sound system, it’s the grandest venue on our list by far.
- Hollywood: It’s a more down-to-earth affair over at the Parlour, a sports bar with more than 50 tv screens, a large outdoor terrace and a menu of American comfort food. If you’re here on business, this combination election party/networking event kicks off at 5pm and is a great option for anyone travelling alone.
- Biscayne Bay: Located on glamorous Belle Isle, Lido Lounge at the Standard is where the beautiful people of Miami will be watching the presidential election results unfold. Join a drag Hillary and Donald at this balmy, bayside election night party, and enjoy beer pong, food-and-drink specials and DJs.
- Wynwood: Indie picturehouse O Cinema is the venue for an election night garden watch party hosted by hyper-local community guide and news resource The New Tropic. With an added screening of bizarre electoral coverage archive footage from the 60s, 70s and 80s, this looks set to be the perfect evening for election-obsessed movie lovers – assuming your preferred candidate wins, of course.
And if you’re an American in London? You surely won’t want to miss out. Why not head to the American Bar at the oh-so-British Stafford Hotel in the heart of St. James, where you can chew your nails over a delectable evening of election-themed food and speciality cocktails. The event kicks off at 9pm, and tickets cost £20.