Election Day Cheat Sheet

Your guide to what's happening, when

By Dr Adrian Beaumont. Election Watch polls analyst

From 10am Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) on Wednesday, polls in various states will start closing across the United States.  This is a guide as to when polls in the swing states close, and what to expect from early counts.

Exit polls are not released until all polls in a state are closed, and this is also the earliest time that a state can be called for a candidate.  Safe states will be called as soon as all polls have closed in that state, even though zero actual votes may have been counted.

In most states, all polls close simultaneously.  However, some states lie across two time zones, and polls in the trailing zone close one hour after polls in the leading zone.  In a few states, polls in urban areas stay open one hour after polls in the rest of the state close.

States report their results by counties.  Counties are local government authorities, and are usually geographically similar in size for a particular state.  However, rural counties have far fewer people than city counties.  Rather than using the percent of the overall enrolled voters counted, US results give the percent of precincts (polling places) reporting.

Many states have extensive early vote programs, and these states tend to tabulate the early vote first.  In these states, large numbers of votes are often counted before any election day precincts report.  The early vote may cause a skew to the Democrats, as Republicans have been more likely to vote on election day in the past.  In general, cities favour Democrats and rural counties favour Republicans.

In the following, I will focus on the swing states.  Closing times are all Wednesday AEDT.  The Green Papers has a chronological list of poll closing times.  States that close their polls at a particular time are listed with their EVs in brackets.  A second bracket is used to denote when not all polls in that state close.  A short description of what to expect in the swing states follows.

Eastern states

10am: Indiana (11) (eastern), Kentucky (7) (eastern)

These two states are the first to close any polls.  If Clinton is competitive in Indiana, it is probably going to be ugly for Trump.  Kentucky is virtually certain to go to Trump.

11am: Virginia (13), Florida (29) (eastern), New Hampshire (4) (urban areas open until 12 noon)

Though Clinton has a lead in Virginia, the early votes will mostly come from rural Virginia, and so Trump will probably lead early.  Trump will be crushed in northern Virginia, which comes in later.

Florida has a large early vote program, and early votes will be quickly released after polls close in many counties.  If election day votes are better for Trump, this will skew the initial results.  The very conservative “panhandle” region in northwest Florida will not start reporting until 12 noon.

New Hampshire is a slow counting state.

Midwest and western states

11:30am: North Carolina (15), Ohio (18)

North Carolina’s early votes will skew to Clinton, and the picture could change as the election day votes are counted.

Ohio counts early votes first, but then the rural counties report.  The big cities report their election day votes last, and strongly favour the Democrats.

12 noon: Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16) (eastern), Maine (4)

Unlike many other states, Philadelphia and its surrounds will report first from Pennsylvania, giving Clinton a huge lead.  As rural Pennsylvania comes in, that lead will narrow.

Four counties in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are one hour behind Detroit, but the affected counties have low populations.  Detroit will report late, and will strongly favour Clinton.

In Maine, the interest is in whether Trump can win the rural 2nd Congressional District (CD), and thus win one EV.  Maine awards one EV to the winner of each of its CDs and two to the statewide winner.

1pm: Wisconsin (10), Arizona (11), Colorado (9), Nebraska (5)

In Wisconsin, Republican favouring areas report first, and the big cities of Milwaukee and Madison come in late.

In Arizona, early votes are tabulated first, but not for over an hour after polls close.

Colorado is a state with extensive early voting, and I would expect results quickly.

The interest in Nebraska is whether Clinton can win the urban 2nd CD.  Nebraska awards one EV for each of its three CDs and two to the statewide winner.

2pm: Iowa (6), Nevada (6)

Iowa is a rural state, and is the most likely Obama 2012 state to be won by Trump.  Counting should be fast.

Nevada‘s population is concentrated in Las Vegas (Clark County) and Reno (Washoe County).  The rest of the state is mostly desert.  If Clinton wins Clark big, she is very likely to win Nevada.

Pacific states

3pm: California (55), Washington (12), Oregon (7), Hawaii (4)

These four states are likely to be called for Clinton immediately polls close.  Combined they total 78 EVs, so they could put Clinton over the 270 EV line.

5pm: The last polls close in the western time zone of Alaska (3).

The election day count is not final. In many states, provisional ballots are added after election day.  Some states, particularly California, count a sizable proportion of their votes after election day.


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