Toronto Star - - AMERICA VOTES - PETER EDWARDS STAFF RE­PORTER With files from The As­so­ci­ated Press and the Star’s Brit­tany Ma­haney.

The U.S. elec­tion has played out like an ex­tended re­al­ity show, with the fi­nal episode sched­uled for Tues­day night. Here’s a viewer’s guide (dig­i­tal and old-school TV) to the last act:

Do all polls close at the same time?

No. Clos­ing times vary, but the key hour to tune in is 8 p.m. when polls close in 22 states from the At­lantic to Texas. By then, more than half the coun­try will be count­ing votes. The lat­est polls to close are in Alaska, where some of the polls re­main open un­til 1 a.m.

What time was the last elec­tion de­cided?

The big net­works project an un­of­fi­cial win­ner as soon as the math adds up. In 2012, a fairly close race, CNN and oth­ers called the elec­tion for Barack Obama af­ter he won Ohio about 11:15 p.m.

What’s the ear­li­est I can ex­pect to stay up to learn the win­ner?

It de­pends on how close the race is, but it’s a safe bet the net­works won’t call the race un­til re­sults from some of the big­ger states be­come clear about 11 p.m.

What are some key states to watch?

Ohio and Florida are al­ways in­ter­est­ing. Ohio tends to vote for the over­all win­ner, mak­ing it what’s called a “bell­wether” state. Polls re­main open in Ohio un­til 7:30 p.m. and are closed in Florida by 8 p.m.

Florida, with its 29 elec­toral col­lege votes, is con­sid­ered es­sen­tial if Trump is to have a shot at the White House. Florida’s a tricky one for TV view­ers, though. Their polls close early but the state has had trou­ble count­ing votes quickly. It took four days to make re­sults of­fi­cial in 2012 and four weeks in 2000.

What is the elec­toral col­lege and how does it work?

The pres­i­dency isn’t nec­es­sar­ily de­cided by who wins the most votes. It’s de­cided by who wins the most elec­toral col­lege votes. There’s a dif­fer­ence.

In each state, there are peo­ple des­ig­nated by each can­di­date to act as his or her elec­tors if they win the pop­u­lar vote.

States get one elec­toral vote for each of their con­gres­sional dis­tricts and sen­a­tors, for a min­i­mum of three to­tal votes each.

Elec­toral votes are given out on a win­ner-take-all ba­sis, ex­cept in Maine and Ne­braska, which award their con­gres­sional votes by who wins each dis­trict.

The 50 states plus three votes for the Dis­trict of Columbia give a grand to­tal of 538 elec­toral votes, mean­ing Trump or Clin­ton must win 270 elec­toral col­lege votes to be­come pres­i­dent.

The sys­tem makes it pos­si­ble to lose the elec­toral vote — and the pres­i­dency — but win the pop­u­lar vote.

What states should be par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing this year?

Ari­zona is gen­er­ally con­sid­ered Repub­li­can turf, but Clin­ton has been show­ing well in the polls there. Polls in Ari­zona close by 9 p.m.

Iowa ap­pears up for grabs and doesn’t have a strong tra­di­tion of back­ing ei­ther party. Polls in Iowa close by 10 p.m.

Other “swing states” in­clude: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michi­gan, Ne­vada, New Hamp­shire, North Carolina, Penn­syl­va­nia, Vir­ginia and Wis­con­sin.

What shouldn’t be so ex­cit­ing?

Penn­syl­va­nia’s a big prize — with 20 elec­toral votes — but polls have Clin­ton com­fort­ably lead­ing there. How­ever, if Penn­syl­va­nia starts to look close, it could be a sign that things are get­ting very ex­cit­ing. Polls there close at 8 p.m.

How do they mark their bal­lots in the U. S.?

There are plenty of meth­ods at play, from pen and pa­per to scan­ning and touch screens.

Scan­ners are the most pop­u­lar method. They al­low pa­per bal­lots to be main­tained to be counted again, if prob­lems arise.

How can I fol­low on­line?

TVs are so last cen­tury. News out­lets are us­ing Face­book Live, Snapchat, YouTube and other tools to of­fer live cov­er­age of elec­tion day in ways not pos­si­ble four years ago.

It’s a fit­ting close to an elec­tion sea­son that has played out on Twit­ter and Face­book as much as it has on the nightly news.

Here’s your Toronto Star on­line guide for Tues­day (All times EDT) Snap away

Snapchat users will be able to see “live sto­ries” on the app — show­ing peo­ple at the polls, elec­tion re­sults, ac­cep­tance and con­ces­sion speeches and elec­tion night cel­e­bra­tions. In the U.S., users will see over­lays they can add to their snaps.

The Star will be send­ing re­porter Azzura Lalani to an elec­tion party at the Drake Ho­tel on Queen St. W., where she’ll in­ter­view Cana­di­ans about what they hope to see — and get a live re­ac­tion. Fol­low us at Toron­toS­tarNews.

Face­off on Face­book

Fol­low our Face­book page for in­depth anal­y­sis and trend­ing ar­ti­cles. Join the dis­cus­sion with other read­ers in our com­ments sec­tion.

At 11 a.m., we’re host­ing a Face­book Live with Wash­ing­ton cor­re­spon­dent Daniel Dale, who has been cov­er­ing the elec­tion over 16 months and 17 states. Tune in to ask ques­tions about his pop­u­lar Trump fact-checks and the elec­tion in gen­eral.

Twitch along with twit­ter

Fol­low the Star on Twit­ter for live re­sults, from re­porters who are on the ground in the U.S. and Toronto. We’ll also be host­ing a live blog on our web­site, with Marco Chown Oved and Ma­rina Jimenez re­port­ing the lat­est news. Daniel Dale will also be tweet­ing on the ground from the U.S. and his ob­ser­va­tions will be streamed live.

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