The earliest states to close their polls and possibly report results Tuesday night won’t tell the nation very much, but the very next batch of polls to close just might set the tone for the night.
Early States May Reveal Who Won
When I first started putting this article together, North Carolina was to close its polls at 7:30 p.m. EDT. They’ve now extended voting hours at four locations due to a late start so we won’t get those results as early as I expected, but we’ll have a lot of information no later than 8:30 p.m. EDT.
6 p.m. EDT
Indiana and Kentucky (eastern time zone precincts) won’t be clear indicators of much. These are reliably red and no one has them going any other way.
7 p.m. EDT
Enter Florida – ok, part of Florida.
Florida is mostly in the Eastern Time zone and those precincts will report at 7 p.m. EDT. But the western panhandle is in the Central Time Zone and won’t report for another hour.
The key difference is that the eastern half contains Miami, typically a Democrat-leaning city while the panhandle is Republican Territory.
As east-Florida ballots are counted, the state is expected to show in-favor of Biden, but as the panhandle results are counted, more Trump votes will appear.
Opposite of the “red mirage” scenario coming from main-stream media, Florida should look like a Biden win first, then move to Trump – more of a blue mirage… I guess.
Georgia also starts reporting at 7 but, despite media polling and punditry, it’s not as battleground-ish as they hope.
Early on, if Biden doesn’t show strongly ahead of Trump in Georgia and Florida, he could be in for a disappointing night. If Trump shows a lead early, Biden may have a disappointing and very short night.
7:30 p.m. EDT (*North Carolina has extended its poll closing to 8:15 p.m. EDT)
Now the battleground state of Ohio starts reporting results and this is when America may get the first real hint as to how the election will end. Absentee ballots in Ohio have been being tabulated for weeks and are expected to lean Biden. The Democrat will need a strong early showing to overcome what is proving to be record election day turnout which is leaning Trump.
Ohio should initially look as if Biden will win and should slowly trend towards Trump. If Biden has a blowout lead in absentee ballots, it could spell trouble for the President.
Alternatively, if Trump is anywhere close to Biden in the early results, it could be the first indicator of an enthusiasm gap that most polls failed to reveal.
8:00 p.m. EDT
A ton of states close their polls at this time, but only two are keys to victory for the candidates: Michigan and Pennsylvania.
If Biden takes PA and MI, while holding NC, he has a clear road to 270 electoral votes while Trump’s get’s more difficult.
If Trump holds FL, NC and takes MI, PA or both, things look bleak for Biden.
Officials in both Pennsylvania and Michigan have announced that they expect counting to go slowly and that results likely won’t be out Tuesday night. It is unclear why PA and MI are not as efficient as Ohio, North Carolina, and others.
8:15 p.m. EDT (voting extended from normal 7:30 p.m. closure)
North Carolina has been tabulating absentee ballots for some time and is expected to report them as soon as the polls close. Biden must take a commanding lead in the mail-in vote to overcome what poll watchers say is a massive turnout of Trump voters on election day.
If Trump comes out close to Biden in the absentee vote, North Carolina is his and it is a good indication that Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania will also go his way. If Trump loses North Carolina, the road to 270 is more difficult to plot out.
Only two states left to watch really: Arizona and Nevada. 17 electoral votes between the two which could help either candidate if they struggle in NC, MI, WI or PA.
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Editors Note: This post has been corrected. An earlier version of this article said that the NC poll closing delay was do to turnout, the Board of Elections has since corrected to say that the delayed closings were due to sites opening later than normal.