Voters across the United Kingdom will go to the polls on Thursday for the snap General Election.
After marking an X next to the name of our favoured candidate, many of us will then face another choice: pull an all-nighter and watch the results come in, or go to bed and wake up in the morning to learn who governs the country.
For the millions who opt to boil the kettle and sit glued to coverage through the night, here’s what to expect.
When are polls open?
Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm. Counting of votes will start immediately after polls close and in some seats will last through the night. Strict election day rules mean by broadcasters are not allowed to report details of campaigns or opinion surveys while voting is open, so don’t expect any indication of results before 10pm.
When will exit polls be out and how reliable are they?
The results of exit polls will be released as soon as voting closes at 10pm on Thursday and will give the first indication of how the political pendulum has swung.
Researchers from Ipsos MORI will ask thousands of people outside 144 polling stations across the country to indicate which way they voted. The exit poll, jointly commissioned by the BBC, ITV and Sky, has built up a good reputation for forecasting the final result. In the 2015 General Election, it correctly predicted a surprisingly large lead for the Conservatives.
When will we know who has won?
The first-past-the-post voting system means a party needs to win 326 constituencies – more than half of the seats in the House of Commons – to be able to form a government.
If election night brings a clear victory for one party, the final result may be predictable at about 3am.
But things will be more complicated if no party wins enough seats for an overall majority. At the start of election campaign this looked unlikely, with the Conservatives predicted to be comfortably returned to power. But the gap between Theresa May’s party and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has closed in recent polls, raising the prospect of a hung Parliament.
If that happens, either the Tories or Labour will likely look to negotiate with other smaller parties and form a coalition government – a process that could take several days. In 2010, David Cameron’s Conversatives formed a coalition government with the Lib Dems on May 12 – six days after the General Election.
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