We not only live in a time of instant and on-demand access to anything we want. Our younger generations never knew it any other way. Today we see political watch parties vacated in time to get home for the 10pm news. But if you ask grandpa, he'll tell you of days when precinct polling places had 2 shifts of employees and hand counting started only after the public polling ended. If you could not fight off sleepiness, you would not have done well at a watch party.
I recall as a young boy, my mother would leave home in the early evening to be a precinct ballot judge. On general election night she never got home before 2am. And that's when the precinct would send their report to the county election board. It was sometime later when the state election board got a majority of the ballots tabulated.
At about 6am, it was hoped that the picture was clear enough so that the radio & TV news could declare their own winners.
I recall the morning after election day of 1968. The morning papers had no results, but the radio & TV news was "pretty sure that Nixon defeated both Humphrey and Wallace.
Candidates didn't always hold the kind of watch parties they do now. Yes, it was a time to gather the volunteers and staff for a time of thanks and share stories from the ground troops. But the candidate usually called his core team over to his home for the midnight hour and had runners gleaning any news from outside the election board offices.
A couple of recent general elections hearken back to the old ways. The famous Bush-v-Gore campaign was settled in the US Supreme Court after the Florida high court started making rules that they had no constitutional power to make.
And Trump didn't address his watch party until nearly 3am, because Hillary Clinton refused to concede her loss publicly until the next day. Insiders say she had too much to drink that election night and was not emotionally stable.
But when you consider that one of the largest nations in the world decides to hold an event on one day, and then count every ballot. Getting a rather complete total within 5 hours and having all news media instantly publish the results... That's a rather impressive feat.