Given how this election has seemed to drag on and on (and on and on), it's hard to believe it will actually be over soon. Nov. 8, hurry up! But what happens next? Here's a rundown of everything that will unfold once the results roll in.
1. Gracious Concession Speech by the Losing Candidate
The concession speech is a time-honored tradition — a moment when, no matter how bitter and ugly things got during the campaign, the losing candidate accepts the fact that the winner will soon be president and asks his supporters to do the same. This usually happens after the loser personally calls the winner to congratulate them. Here is Romney's 2012 speech, for example:
Already, we're hitting a potential bump in the road. Donald Trump has very publicly declared he could refuse to accept the results of the election if he loses, claiming the whole process is likely rigged.
So, what happens if Trump refuses to honor this tradition? Many are concerned that his supporters will take a cue from him and riot in protest. But legally? It actually makes no difference whether he concedes or not. Recounts, like the infamous Florida recount of 2000, are automatically triggered in many states where the vote is extremely close. Forty-five states let a candidate demand a recount, but must have a legitimate reason, such as voter fraud, illegal voting, or bribery.
2. Victory Speech by the Winning Candidate
This is when the winner is finally allowed to take a deep sigh of relief and bask in the moment. He or she accepts the results with gratitude, congratulates his or her opponent on their campaign (again, it's anyone's guess as to whether that will happen in either scenario this year), and reaffirms promises for the future. Here's President Obama's speech from 2012:
At the moment, we know Hillary Clinton will be spending election night in New York City at the Jacob K. Javits Center — which just happens to have a glass ceiling.
3. Transition, aka the "Lame Duck" Period
Many Republicans have been calling President Obama a "lame duck president" for the better part of a year now, especially since the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February, in an effort to discredit Obama's replacement pick. But only after Nov. 8 will Obama officially become a lame duck president, once he has an elected successor. This is the time he will likely spend tying up loose policy ends, although he will technically still have the power to pull off a big project. We do know he has trips to Europe and South America scheduled after the election.
Meanwhile, the president-elect will be busy prepping for the next four years, reading up on files, naming key cabinet members, and laying out strategies for the near future.
4. Inauguration Day — and Tea
The inauguration ceremony will take place on Jan. 20, 2017, at the Capitol. The outgoing president and first lady will welcome the president-elect and their spouse at the White House for a traditional tea before heading over to the Capitol. The president-elect will be sworn in on the steps of the monument, thereby officially becoming the 45th president of the United States. The ceremony will be followed by the inaugural address, a traditional luncheon, and finally a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. The evening will include a dinner at the White House and a series of official and unofficial inaugural balls in the evening.
5. Moving In and Out of the White House
On Inauguration Day, while everyone else is busy with the ceremonies and festivities, White House staff and others will be hard at work moving the incoming president's family's belongings into their new digs. Everything will have likely been transported to the premises a week before, but this is when the big switch happens, as this is also when the outgoing president's belongings are moved out. For added pressure, everything has to be ready for the post-Inauguration dinner later that night. It looks like the day will be quite chaotic behind the scenes.
The Obamas will be moving into a $5.3 million mansion they are renting in Washington DC, at least long enough for youngest daughter Sasha to finish high school. If Hillary Clinton wins, as is widely predicted, moving back into the White House will probably feel a bit like coming home.