03 Nov 2020: US election 2020: What you need to look out for
This year, since several voters have cast early ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic, we may not have a clear picture of results by election night.
Let's take a state-by-state look at what you need to watch for.
Important note: Last polls close in Alaska at 1 am ET
The first polls will close in Indiana and Kentucky at 6 pm Eastern Time Tuesday, while the last polls will shut down in Alaska at 1 am ET Wednesday.
Since many Americans are voting by mail-in ballots, it's likely that early partial results would be misleading. States counting in-person votes first will probably favor Trump, while states counting pre-Election Day votes might favor Biden.
6 pm: States where polls close at 6 pm ET
The states of Indiana and Kentucky are not crucial to focus on since President Trump is expected to win against his Democratic rival here. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is also likely to win easily.
However, early trends will not reveal much about the results, since polls will remain open in both states for another hour in the western regions that follow Central time.
7 pm: States where polls close at 7 pm ET
Florida and Georgia are expected to count the ballots faster compared to other swing states.
Biden's victory in either state would be significant. However, it must be noted that Florida reports pre-Election Day votes first and polls in the state's conservative Panhandle region will be open for another hour; both these factors imply that early trends could disproportionately favor the Democrats.
Fact: Georgia's two Senate races could require runoffs
Further, Georgia has two competitive Senate races that may require runoffs in January. South Carolina is expected to count almost all votes by Tuesday night and the race between Senator Lindsey Graham and Jaime Harrison could be called quickly.
7:30 pm: States where polls close at 7:30 pm ET
Notably, North Carolina and Ohio are swing states that are likely to report a majority of the votes quickly. However, both states will continue to accept mail-in ballots for over a week. The winner may not be apparent until mid-November in a close race.
North Carolina also has a competitive Senate race this year between Senator Thom Tillis and Democrat Cal Cunningham.
8 pm: States where polls close at 8 pm ET
The last polls in Florida will also close at this time, along with most or all polls in key swing states Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Texas will likely report most votes by Tuesday night while Michigan and Pennsylvania may take several days. Early trends may disproportionately favor Republicans.
Alabama, Maine, Michigan, and Texas also have significant Senate races.
8:30-9 pm: States where polls close at 8:30-9 pm ET
Arkansas wouldn't tell us much as it's safe Republican territory for Trump and Senator Tom Cotton. There is, however, a competitive 2nd Congressional District race.
Polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, and Wisconsin at 9 pm ET. Democrats are hoping to flip Senate seats in Arizona and Colorado. These states report votes fairly quickly. Final results in Wisconsin may be out by Wednesday morning.
10 pm: States where polls close at 10 pm ET
Although Iowa is more Republican-leaning in the Presidential race and is less likely to decide the election compared to other swing states, if Biden wins here, he would probably have passed 270 electoral votes elsewhere. The same is true for Trump in Nevada.
Iowa has one of the most competitive Senate races this year, between Senator Joni Ernst and Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield.
11 pm: States where polls close at 11 pm ET
None of the states where polls close at 11 pm ET have competitive Presidential or Senate races.
California has several noteworthy House races, however, the complete results may not arrive for weeks. Notably, Several California residents voted by mail even before the pandemic.
Hawaii's results may be reported quickly, however, there wouldn't be much to see in the Hawaii or Alaska polls.