What are you able to anticipate on US election evening and past?
© Reuters. United States President Donald Trump holds a rally at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan
(Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic, an unprecedented number of ballots cast early, the lack of consistency in the counting of those votes, and ongoing litigation have made the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election one of the most difficult to predict.
As Americans go to polling stations on Tuesday, the question arises not only of whether Republican President Donald Trump will win a second four-year term or be defeated by his Democratic rival Joe Biden, but also when the result will be known.
The latest public opinion polls show the race in the battlefield states is close enough to pass the result on to both parties, even if Biden leads Trump in national polls.
Some of these states do not start counting early votes until after polling stations close, and some allow the inclusion of ballot papers that arrive after polling day as long as they are postmarked by November 3rd. If the president’s race depends on the results in these states, America could wait for days.
Experts have warned against reading too much in early returns, which could be skewed by how each state processes votes not cast in person on election day.
Here are a few moments to watch out for on Tuesday and beyond:
5:00 p.m. ET (2200 GMT) – Edison Research will release preliminary results of its exit polls based on face-to-face interviews with voters on election day, face-to-face interviews at early polling centers before Nov. 3, and telephone interviews with people who voted via email .
The first data relate to the mood and motivation of national and state voters, but not to detailed percentage estimates. Results of voting questions in individual states will be published after the state vote has ended.
Edison will refine and update its national and state exit poll results throughout the night, collecting more voter responses, and adjusting weights to reflect voter turnout.
6 p.m. ET (2300 GMT) – Some polling stations in the Republican strongholds of Indiana and Kentucky, the first in the country, are closing.
7:00 p.m. ET (0000 GMT) – Voting ends in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, and Vermont.
Some Florida polling stations are closing, but many stay open until 8 p.m.
The early results from Florida could favor Biden due to the high volume of early ballot papers that the state began scanning more than three weeks ago. According to opinion polls, more Democrats voted early while more Republicans waited until election day. If there is a “blue mirage” it will fade as more Tuesday personal ballots are counted.
7:30 p.m. ET (0030 GMT) – Polls in North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia are closing.
As in Florida, the first results from North Carolina and Ohio could favor Biden as states began scanning early ballots weeks before election day. A more precise picture of the voting will result if more ballot papers are listed in the table.
North Carolina will count ballots that will not arrive until November 12th if postmarked by November 3rd. Ohio will accept ballots 10 days after the election if postmarked by November 2nd.
8:00 p.m. ET (0100 GMT) – Voting ends in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington DC
Pennsylvania does not begin processing early votes until election day, and the state will accept postal ballot papers for up to three days after the election if postmarked by November 3rd. As a result, the number of first votes from Pennsylvania a “Red Mirage” may favor Trump until the postal vote is counted, experts say.
8:30 p.m. ET (0130 GMT) – Reuters awaits the release of updated results from Edison Research’s National Exit Survey with percentage estimates of support for Biden vs Trump.
Polling stations are closing in Arkansas.
9:00 p.m. ET (0200 GMT) – Voting ends in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
As in Pennsylvania, the first results from Michigan and Wisconsin are likely to favor Trump, as ballots cannot be counted before election day. (Michigan allows some ballots to be opened, but they cannot be counted.)
In Arizona, ballots can be scanned 14 days before the election.
10 p.m. ET (0300 GMT) – Polls closed in Iowa, Montana, Nevada, and Utah.
In Iowa, ballot envelopes can be opened on the Saturday before the election and tabulation begins on the Monday. Ballot papers stamped by November 2nd cannot arrive until the Monday after the election.
Nevada allows ballot papers to be scanned 14 days prior to the election and accepts ballot papers for up to seven days after the election if postmarked by November 3rd.
11 p.m. ET (0400 GMT) – Voting ends in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
12 p.m. ET (0500 GMT) – Polls closed in Hawaii.
1 p.m. ET (0600 GMT) – Voting ends in Alaska.
States have until this date, known under federal law as the “Safe Harbor” period, to resolve disputes over their vote count and confirm the winner. If a state does not finally determine its number of votes by then, Congress no longer has to accept its results within the framework of the electoral college.
Members of the electoral college cast their votes for the president. The candidate who receives a majority of the 538 available or 270 votes wins the presidency.
In all but two states, the winner of the state’s referendum receives all votes, which are divided according to population groups. In Maine and Nebraska, the national referendum winner receives two votes and the remaining votes are given to the referendum winner in each congressional district in the state.
JAN. 6, 2021
Congress meets in Washington at 1:00 p.m. ET (1800 GMT) to count the votes and declare a winner.
JAN. 20, 2021
Inauguration day. The winner and his runner-up will be sworn in as President and Vice President at the US Capitol in Washington.
Source: Edison Research, Reuters Reporting
(This story corrects the December 14 entry on the distribution of votes.)