Election night 2020 is unlike any American has seen before – with the presidency in the balance, and a record number of votes being counted in the teeth of the COVID pandemic.
Once polls close, the potential for chaos and crisis only begins. Here is DailyMail.com’s hour by hour guide to what to look out for as the U.S. passes its verdict on whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden should be in the White House, and who controls the Senate.
All times are EST.
First polls close in parts of Indiana and Kentucky.
All polls close in Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia. The remainder of Indiana and Kentucky’s polls close. Florida polls except those in the Panhandle, which is in Central Time, close.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
EXIT POLLS: The first exit polls could come within minutes – but in a pandemic year, it is unclear how accurate they will be, with at least 93 million having voted early or by mail-in ballot. A huge turnout in Georgia could mean lines still outside polling places – a problem which has bedeviled it in recent elections.
All polls close in North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
NORTH CAROLINA – TRUMP WON IN 2016
First results will come within minutes – but they might be very small percentages of the total vote. North Carolina expects to have about 80 per cent of its votes counted on election night, starting with in-person early voting totals and mail-in ballots received by November 2. In the hours following polls closing, the state will report the in-person election day votes. The state does allow mail-in ballots to come in until November 12, so if it’s close, it may take several days to announce a final result.
Polls in North Carolina have flipped repeatedly between Trump and Biden. Trump won the state in 2016. An Emerson poll that ended surveying on October 30 shows the candidates tied. The Real Clear Politics polling average has Trump a tiny .5 per cent ahead. The Senate race is equally close fought, with Republican Thom Tillis hoping to hang on but Democrat Cal Cunningham up 2.2% in recent averages despite admitting to sexting a woman who was not his wife.
Could it be the end: South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham is in the fight of his political life with Jamie Harrison
SOUTH CAROLINA – REPUBLICANS DEFENDING ONE SENATE SEAT
Not in play for the presidential election – but a closely-fought Senate race could end Republican Lindsey Graham’s career and put Democrat Jaime Harrison in his place. Graham has been ahead in the three most recent polls by between three and six points but Harrison has out fundraised him by tens of millions of dollars and there has been too little polling to be sure that Graham is safely ahead. The state says it will start reporting from around
EXIT POLLS: Polls covering swing states of North Carolina and Ohio can be expected now. Biden’s campaign believes it can flip Ohio, despite it having gone to Trump by 8.3% in 2016. Its Republican governor predicts an ultra-narrow Trump win.
All polls close in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C. Most polls close in Texas and Michigan. Central time polls close in Kansas, North and South Dakota. Remaining polls, those in Central Time in the Panhandle, close in Florida.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Must win: Barack Obama held a rally in Miami on Monday night in a push for Latino and black voters in the state
FLORIDA – TRUMP WON IN 2016
The first official results are expected within minutes of the Panhandle’s polls closing – and will give some indication how the perennial swing state has gone. Florida is used to processing large numbers of mail-in ballots. Early voting numbers will come out quickly as well. Those tallies will be followed by in-person voting. But officials believe they will still be counting into daylight on Wednesday.
Biden could have an early lead in that state and see it diminished as the night goes on. He has just a 1 point lead in the Real Clear Politics polling average in Trump’s adopted home state. By 8.30PM there should be a significant proportion of Florida’s results reported – so the state will at least indicate if one candidate or another can expect a blowout
OHIO – TRUMP WON IN 2016
First results could be announced as early as 8pm. Counties are required to announce the results of all absentee ballots received by Election Day and all early votes. They can then start counting ballots cast on election day and these will be updated through the night. The number of outstanding absentee ballots will be reported on election night, meaning number crunchers will be able to determine if there are enough outstanding ballots to sway the presidential race. Ballots marked postmarked November 2 can be counted until November 13 – so a clear result could take more than a week
Late-breaking polls in Ohio gave Trump a slim advantage in the state he won over Clinton in 2016, but that President Barack Obama and Vice President Biden carried in 2008 and 2012. The Real Clear Politics polling average shows Trump 1.4 points ahead.
OTHERS: The Associated Press, Reuters and TV networks are likely to start a rapid-fire declaration of likely winners in a series of states soon after 8pm – but it is only likely to already be considered safely Republican or Democratic already.
Arkansas polls close
All polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Remaining polls close in Kansas, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
In trouble: Kelly Loeffler was appointed to the Senate to fill Republican Johnny Isakson’s seat but the best she can hope for in current polling is getting through to a January run-off
GEORGIA – TRUMP WON IN 2016, REPUBLICANS DEFENDING TWO SENATE SEATS
Georgia is expected to take about two hours to start reporting results. The state was allowed to start processing mail-in ballots on October 19. Additionally, after court challenges, mail-in ballots had to be returned by the time polls close – not just in the mail. The only exception is for Georgia voters living abroad.
Polls show an extremely tight race with Trump ahead by .2 per cent in the Real Clear Politics polling average . At the peak of Biden’s support, in mid-October, he was just 2 points ahead.
But there are two other races which could shape the senate. Republican Kelly Loeffler is running for the seat she was appointed to in a three-way battle: she is up against Republican Dan Collins and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Democrat. Warnock needs 50% for an outright win, or the race goes to a top-two run-off. Polls put him between 34 and 46 per cent, not enough for a knockout, while who between Collins and Loeffler is in second place is unclear.
Unusually, the other Senate seat is also in play, Republican David Perdue is running for anther term and may be in trouble with Democrat Jon Ossoff up 0.7% on average in a formerly safely Republican state. Both Republican incumbents have faced probes into possible insider trading – of which they were cleared – but realistically, both races are likely to become a January runoff which could determine who controls the Senate.
TEXAS – TRUMP WON IN 2016, REPUBLICANS DEFENDING ONE SENATE SEAT
It is possible that exit polling from Texas will give some indication of the race there as it closes completely. But what happens next is unknown. Texas allowed mail-in votes to be counted before election day, so the Lone Star state is expecting to know those results, as well as in-person voting on election night. Mail-in ballots have until November 4 at 5 p.m. to arrive, so if the state is extremely close, there could be some waiting at the end. The way the results are announced could show a Biden, then Trump swing – with a boost at the end for Biden from the remaining mail-in ballots.
The Real Clear Politics polling average gives Trump a 1.2 point advantage in the historically red state. Two polls – an Emerson and a Quinnipiac survey – from October showed the candidates tied. For most of the race, however, Trump has been more solidly ahead, with a poll here and there showing the state going blue. Officials expect rapid counting and results. In 2016, the winner was declared just after midnight – Trump took the state by nine points. But a close race will slow the Associated Press, Reuters and TV networks’ ability to call the race.
In the Senate, John Cornyn is looking for a fourth term as a Republican. He is polling ahead of Trump, averaging 6.8% over M.J. Hegar, the Democratic challenger. If Cornyn lost, it would be a sign that Texas is officially a purple state.
OTHERS: Safe states including New York are likely to be called rapidly from 9pm to 10pm. Biden’s numbers will go up more than Trump’s at this point thanks to New York’s 29 electors, and Illinois’ 20. By shortly after 9PM both campaigns are likely to have more than 100 electoral college votes in their column.
Polls close in Iowa, Montana, Nevada and Utah. Mountain time polls close in Idaho and Oregon.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Campaign: Gabrielle Giffords speaks for her husband Mark Kelly who is beating the Republican appointed senator, Martha McSally, in Arizona polls
ARIZONA – TRUMP WON IN 2016, REPUBLICANS DEFENDING ONE SENATE SEAT
The state is anticipating the first precinct reporting numbers by about 10PM. Early and absentee ballots that were cast by the weekend will have been pre-counted and those results will be announced rapidly. Ballots cast on election day are also expected to come in Tuesday night – the state historically counts quickly. But last-minute absentee ballots could take several days to be tabulated with Thursday or Friday thought to be realistic.Biden has been several points ahead of Trump in Arizona polls for months, but a Trafalgar Group survey and a Rasmussen poll showed Trump 3 and 4 points ahead in late October, potentially indicating a narrowing of the race. The Real Clear Politics polling average has Biden 1 point ahead.
Also in play here is the Senate seat to which Martha McSally was appointed: that held by John McCain. Democrat Mark Kelly, a former astronaut married to Gabrielle Giffords, the former Congresswoman left badly injured in a mass shooting, however is consistently ahead in the polls, by an average of 6.2%. Flipping McCain’s seat would be a massive blow to Republicans and suggest that Arizona is not just purple but trending blue.
ALABAMA: DEMOCRATS DEFENDING ONE SENATE SEAT
Alabama says to expect all results on election night.
The ruby-red state’s Senate seat went to Doug Jones, a Democrat, in a special election in 2017. Republicans saw their vote collapse when already controversial candidate Roy Moore was hit by allegations of inappropriate conduct with teenage girls, which he denies. Jones won by 1.5% and now faces Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn University coach. Limited polling has given the Republican an 11-point lead in October.
MONTANA – REPUBLICANS DEFENDING ONE SENATE SEAT
Not competitive for Trump and Biden but Democratic governor Steve Bullock is running for Senate against Republican incumbent Steve Daines. Polling has been relatively scarce in this tiny state with the three most recent polls all suggesting a close race, with Bullock either behind Daines by three points, tied, or ahead by one.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
WISCONSIN – TRUMP WON IN 2016
First results will start to be reported by now, with Washington County, which is mostly rural but has some Milwaukee suburbs, likely to be first to fully declare. The last results are expected from heavily-Democratic Milwaukee county by 7am. The Supreme Court prevented ballots arriving after November 2 being counted, meaning a complete count by Wednesday is realistic.
Trump took Wisconsin by just 0.8% in one of the 2016 upsets which cost Clinton the White House. Trump has held repeated rallies there – including in Kenosha on Monday night (right). In recent weeks the state has been one of the worst affected by coronavirus, but Trump has kept coming in the belief that he can repeat the 2016 surprise. His poll average there has been poor since summer, and it now puts Biden 6.6% up.
Polls close in California and Washington state and Pacific Time polls close in Oregon and Idaho.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
MINNESOTA – CLINTON WON IN 2016, DEMOCRATS DEFENDING ONE SENATE SEAT
Expect some idea of the direction of Minnesota by now. Minnesota gave itself two weeks to start counting mail-in ballots, so results should come in November 3. Ballots in the state had to be returned by election day, which could also speed up the process.
Polls have never shown Trump in front of Biden, though the president has made a play for the blue state anyway, suggesting its demographics are similar to Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which won him the White House in 2016. The Real Clear Politics polling average has Biden ahead by 4.3 points.
Democratic senator Tina Smith is seeking re-election with a challenge from Republican Jason Lewis. She has polled an average of five points clear of the challenger, who had to stop campaigning for much of last week because of emergency hernia surgery.
NEBRASKA – TRUMP WON SINGLE ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTE IN 2016
Nebraska started counting its mail-in ballots prior to election day and absentee ballots had to be returned by November 3, so the expectation is the results will be out quickly. Nebraska splits its electoral college votes so that each Congressional district has one. Only one is competitive – Nebraska-02 , representing Omaha and its suburbs. It went for Trump by just two points last time and what little polling there has been puts Biden safely ahead by three points – although Democrats believe it could be more. Trump campaigned in Omaha in the hope of keeping the vote because in a narrow fight, it could be crucial. Nebraska is usually relatively quick and all results are due by midnight so look for it to be known by now.
COLORADO: REPUBLICANS DEFENDING ONE SENATE SEAT
Colorado was already mostly mail-in ballots so is expecting to be able to handle the pandemic’s effects more easily than some states. Partial results are uploaded come roughly every 90 minutes, so the first should be safely processed by now.
Cory Gardner, the sitting Republican senator, is facing popular former Democratic governor John Hickenlooper. There have been only two polls in October, each putting Hickenlooper up eight or nine points. In a state which was Clinton by 4.9 points in 2016, Gardner has closely associated himself with Trump, which Democrats believe will seal his fate.
OTHERS: Calls will come for the safely Democratic west coast. By now Joe Biden is likely to have more than 200 electoral college votes secured, with California’s mammoth 55 key to his big advantage – Trump may be on as few as 104 by this point. Now it is entirely down to the competitive states to see what happens next. Trump’s path to re-election might have ended by now, or might be a nail-biter.
Polls close in Alaska (except for those in its Hawaii time zone) and Hawaii
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Reinforcements: Fear of losing Iowa and a Senate seat have sent Donald Trump and Mike Pence to Iowa to campaign with Joni Ernst
IOWA – TRUMP WON IN 2016, REPUBLICANS DEFENDING ONE SENATE SEAT
Counts relatively quickly and first results should be trickling through by now. Trump has overtaken Biden in recent polling in Iowa, after the Democrat had the lead through most of the fall. The Real Clear Politics polling average has Trump ahead by 1.4 points.
The last four polls had Trump winning in the state. The Des Moines Register survey gave Trump the biggest advantage, beating Biden by 7 – 48 per cent to 41 per cent. However, ballots postmarked by November 2 that arrive by November 9 can be counted too. This could give Biden a boost if the race is tight.
In the Senate Republican Joni Ernst is facing a formidable challenge from Theresa Greenfield. Four out of five polls have put Ernst ahead in October, but only one outside the margin of error, while another said the same for Greenfield.
Final polls close in Alaska – the voting is over everywhere
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
NEVADA – CLINTON WON IN 2016
Nevada mailed out ballots to every registered voter this year and those ballots just have to be postmarked by November 3 – meaning counting could go on for days. However, mail-in ballots can be counted before election day, so there could be some results reported on November 3. If it’s close, ballots being counted later will likely trend toward Biden.
Biden has been consistently ahead of Trump in Nevada polling, with Trump never ahead in a survey for the past year. The Real Clear Politics polling average has the Democrat winning the state by 3.6 points.
All over: Hillary Clinton was declared the loser by 2.29AM on November 9, 2016.
In 2016, this was when the Associated Press declared Trump had won and Hillary Clinton had lost.
MAINE – TRUMP WON ONE ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTE IN 2016, REPUBLICANS DEFENDING ONE SENATE SEAT
Like Nebraska, Maine splits its electoral college votes, with one for each Congressional district. Maine officials are allowing mail-in ballots to be counted prior to polls closing.
But Maine uses a ‘ranked preference’ system which means that if one candidate breaks 50 per cent, the result is likely before midnight. But if one does not, ballots go to Augusta for second preferences to be tabulated, which could take it far into Wednesday.
Trump pulled away one Electoral Vote from Hillary Clinton in 2016 thanks to Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, in the north of the state. However, all three polls conducted in October showed Biden ahead by around 3 points there.
Republican senator Susan Collins also appears to be deeply vulnerable to Democratic challenger Sara Gideon.
Collins, who Trump has not campaigned for, is down by between four and seven points in October’s polls and was overwhelmingly outfundraised. She had held her seat with a 37-point advantage in 2014 but Democrats believe she is the most vulnerable Republican senator of all.
All about Michigan: Joe Biden campaigned with Barack Obama in Detroit on Saturday. Democrats are determined not to see a repeat of the 2016 upset
MICHIGAN -TRUMP WIN IN 2016, DEMOCRATS DEFENDING ONE SENATE SEAT
Michigan’s results will be slow to come in as mail-in ballot counting didn’t start until November 2. Michigan’s secretary of state estimated that it could take until Friday for all the ballots to be counted. The state could trend toward Biden later in the week, as Democrats are more prone to mail their ballots in.
Polling has had Biden ahead in Michigan, one of the three ‘blue wall’ states Trump won in 2016, for months – however, a late-breaking Trafalgar poll showed Trump up by 2 points. Overall, the Real Clear Politics polling average has Biden ahead by 5.1 points.
Democratic senator Gary Peters is also defending his seat against Republican John James. James, who is black, has been seen as a Republican rising star. But Peters’ polling average is ahead by 5.5 points, almost identical to Biden’s lead.
Hats all: No state has occupied each campaign more than Pennsylvania – but when the results of their efforts will be known is unknown
PENNSYLVANIA – TRUMP WON IN 2016
Mail-in ballots can’t begin being processed in the Keystone State until 7 a.m. on November 3 – meaning a final result could take days. Some Pennsylvania counties also plan to count in-person Election Day votes first – this could give Trump a perceived edge in the state, only for later ballots to move the count toward Biden.
Mail-in ballots postmarked on election day can arrive as late as November 6, further lengthening the process. The counting deadline is November 23 – a whole 20 days after the election – but officials have pointed to Friday as when most Pennsylvanians’ votes will be counted.
Pennsylvania polling had given Biden the advantage for months, but several late October surveys show Trump ahead in the state that clinched him his Electoral College win in 2016. The narrowed race has Biden up by 2.9 points in the Real Clear Politics polling average.
AND WHERE TO FIND THE CANDIDATES
TRUMP: The president will throw a party at the White House with several hundred supporters – who will all be tested for coronavirus, as the event will be held inside. The Trump campaign promoted an election night shindig at the president’s Washington, D.C., hotel, but Trump pointed a finger at D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser – who in ‘phase two’ is limiting gatherings to 50 people – as the party pooper. As the White House is federal property, Trump can do whatever he likes.
BIDEN: The Democratic nominee will be in Wilmington, Delaware with his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris on election night. The campaign has yet to release additional details on their plans. Before that, Biden will make one more trip to the Pennsylvania town where he was born, Scranton, and he’ll make a stop in Philadelphia, where his campaign offices were based. Harris will make a final election day stop too, in Detroit. As will Dr. Jill Biden, the former VP’s wife. She’ll be in Tampa and St. Petersburgh, Florida and then head to Wake County, North Carolina. Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff will be in Columbus, Ohio.