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An Hour-by-Hour Guide to Getting Election Results

  • With a massive surge in mail-in voting, there’s a good chance we won’t know which US presidential candidate won many states, including key battlegrounds, on election night.
  • Here’s a guide to what you should watch for on election night and in the days and weeks following. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

With a massive surge in mail-in voting, it’s likely we won’t know which US presidential candidate won many states, including key battlegrounds, on election night.

Despite President Donald Trump’s stated preference that ballots not be counted after Election Day, it’s normal and legal for states to continue counting and, in some cases, accepting ballots after Election Day (as long as they were postmarked by November 3).

We’re not expecting to have full results in the crucial swing states of Michigan and Pennsylvania until a few days after Election Day. While Arizona, North Carolina, and Florida expect to have most of their results reported Tuesday night, mail-in ballots cast shortly before Election Day may not be reported until later in the week. Close races in these states could delay the outcome of the presidential and key Senate races.

Because Trump has aggressively attacked mail-in voting, we’re expecting that a handful of states will experience a so-called red mirage showing them leaning toward Republicans and then shifting toward Democrats as disproportionately blue mail-in ballots are counted. Blue mirages could occur in Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina, which will release their mail-in ballot results earlier.

An hour-by-hour guide to election night

  • 6 p.m. ET: Polls close in Kentucky and Indiana
  • 7 p.m. ET: Polls close in Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia

Presidential race: Keep your eyes on Georgia. Biden leads Trump in the red state in polling by about 1.3 points, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average. If Georgia is close or Biden is ahead on election night, that’s bad news for Trump.

Biden is leading in Virginia polling by 11.2 points, according to the polling average.

Senate races: Both of Georgia’s Senate seats are up for grabs. Republican Sen. David Perdue is facing a tough challenge from the Democrat Jon Ossoff, while GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed last year, is running in a tight special election that could go to a January runoff.

  • 7:30 p.m. ET: Polls close in North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia

Presidential race: Trump won all three of these states in 2016 but has just a 0.8-point lead in Ohio, according to FiveThirtyEight’s average, and is trailing Biden by 1.9 points in North Carolina. If Trump is underperforming in either state on election night, that’s a bad sign for him.

Senate race: Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, is facing a competitive challenge from the Democrat Cal Cunningham.

  • 8 p.m. ET: Polls close in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington, DC

Presidential race: Biden is leading Trump by 2.3 points in Florida, essentially a must-win state for Trump. Florida is expected to release most of its results on Tuesday night. Pennsylvania is also a pivotal state, but results most likely won’t be known until later in the week.

Senate race: Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, is in a tight race against her Democratic challenger, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon.

  • 8:30 p.m. ET: Polls close in Arkansas
  • 9 p.m. ET: Polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming

Presidential race: Biden is leading in Arizona, a state Trump won in 2016, by 2.6 points, according to FiveThirtyEight’s average.

Michigan, which is expected to take a few days after Election Day to report full results, is a key battleground Trump barely won in 2016. Biden is leading by 8 points in the polls entering Election Day.

Trump also barely won Wisconsin in 2016, and Biden has a similar 8-point lead in the polls. State officials expect to report Wisconsin’s full results by late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

The president is ahead in Texas by just 1 point, and if Biden is competitive here, that’s bad news for Trump. If the president loses Texas, it’s surely all over for him.

Senate races: Sen. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican, is trailing the Democrat Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut who is married to former Rep. Gabby Giffords, in the polls. And in Colorado, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is facing a tough challenge from former Gov. John Hickenlooper.

  • 10 p.m. ET: Polls close in Iowa, Montana, Nevada, and Utah

Presidential race: Biden has a 4.9-point lead over Trump in Nevada, which Trump lost by just over 2 points in 2016. Holding Nevada will be important for Biden.

Trump is just 1.4 points ahead of Biden in Iowa polls, and a loss here would be a bad sign for Trump, who won Iowa by more than 9 points in 2016.

Senate races: Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa is just 4 points ahead of her Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield, according to recent polling. Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, is locked in a tight race with the two-term Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.

  • 11 p.m. ET: Polls close in California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington

Presidential race: If Biden sweeps on Election Day, the blue West Coast states could put him over the edge toward the end of the night.

  • Midnight ET: Polls close in Hawaii
  • 1 a.m. ET (November 4): Polls close in Alaska
Florida voters Miami-Dade

Poll workers in Miami helping a voter use an official Miami-Dade County ballot drop box on August 11.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Expected timing of unofficial results in every state

Most states are expected to report their unofficial results by late Tuesday night. But many other states, including some key battlegrounds, are expected to take a few days or weeks to report out their final counts.

Here’s a guide to when each state is likely to report its results:

November 3:

  • Alabama: We’ll most likely know which way this deep-red state will go early on election night, since mail-in and in-person ballots are counted at the same time.
  • Arizona: We should have preliminary results (early, mail-in, and in-person ballots) in this swing state at about 10 p.m. But mail-in ballots that arrive Monday and Tuesday won’t be counted until the end of the week.
  • Arkansas: We should know Arkansas’ projected outcome pretty early on election night. The deep-red state will release early and mail-in votes first.
  • Colorado: Most Colorado ballots are mail-in, and they all must be received by Election Day, so this blue state is expected to report the vast majority of its ballots on election night. Mail-in ballots received shortly before and on November 3 will most likely be reported shortly after Election Day.
  • Delaware: This deep-blue state will report its results, including all mail-in votes, on election night.
  • Florida: This swing state allows election officials to process mail-in ballots before Election Day, so most of Florida’s results will be reported Tuesday night. But some counties might continue counting ballots into Wednesday and potentially Thursday.
  • Georgia: This swing state will report most of its results on election night, but results in some tight races may not be clear until Wednesday or Thursday.
  • Hawaii: This deep-blue state will report its results shortly after polls close at midnight ET.
  • Idaho: This deep-red state should have most of its results in by midnight on election night.
  • Iowa: This battleground state expects to have its most of its results in on election night.
  • Kansas: This red state expects to have most of its results in on election night.
  • Kentucky: This solidly red state expects to have up to 90% of its ballots counted on election night.
  • Louisiana: This deep-red state will probably have most of its results in on election night.
  • Maine: This blue state will most likely have its results in on election night.
  • Massachusetts: This deep-blue state will most likely have its results in on election night.
  • Minnesota: This battleground state expects to have its most of its results in on election night.
  • Mississippi: This red state expects to have most of its results in on election night.
  • Missouri: This red state expects to have nearly all of its results in on election night.
  • Montana: This red state expects to have nearly all of its results in on election night.
  • Nebraska: This red state expects to have nearly all of its results in on election night.
  • New Hampshire: This swing state should have its results in on election night.
  • New Mexico: This blue state expects to have most of its results in on election night.
  • North Carolina: This battleground state expects to have up to 80% of its results reported on election night, but it may take days to call tight races as the state continues to count mail-in ballots.
  • North Dakota: This red state will probably have most of its results in on election night.
  • Ohio: This battleground state will have most of its results in on election night but will continue to count mail-in ballots until its deadline on November 13.
  • Oklahoma: This deep-red state expects to have nearly all of its results reported on election night.
  • Oregon: This blue state typically votes by mail, so it should have its results in on election night.
  • Rhode Island: The solidly blue state will probably have most of its results in on election night.
  • South Carolina: This red state expects to have most of its results in on election night.
  • South Dakota: This red state expects to have most of its results in on election night.
  • Tennessee: This red state expects to have nearly all of its results in on election night.
  • Texas: This battleground state will probably report most of its results on election night, as the state has already been processing mail-in ballots.
  • Vermont: This blue state will most likely have its results in on election night.
  • Virginia: This likely blue state expects to have most of its results reported on election night.
  • West Virginia: This red state will have most of its results reported on election night.
  • Wyoming: This deep red state expects to have nearly all of its results reported on election night.

November 4:

  • Wisconsin: This battleground state expects to have its results in by election night or Wednesday morning at the latest.

November 5:

  • Connecticut: It’s unclear when this blue state will finish counting ballots (some parts of the state could take up to six days), but we’ll probably have most results on Wednesday.
  • Indiana: This red state will probably have its results ready Wednesday or Thursday.

November 6:

  • Michigan: This battleground state will probably take a few days until its complete results are in. Officials start counting mail-in ballots Monday, meaning there’s unlikely to be enough time to tally them all by election night.
  • Pennsylvania: This battleground state expects to have most of its results on election night, though not all, as much of the state has voted by mail and election offices cannot start counting until Election Day.

Mid- to late-November:

  • Alaska: We’ll most likely have a projected outcome for this red state on election night, but Alaska could take up to two weeks after Election Day to finish counting its mail-in ballots.
  • California: This blue state will almost certainly go for Biden, but California accepts mail-in ballots postmarked on or before Election Day until November 20, so final results may not be known until weeks after the election.
  • Washington, DC: It’s unclear when deeply Democratic Washington will report its full results, but it could take a few weeks. This year, the district sent mail-in ballots to every registered voter and will count ballots that arrive by November 13 if they’re postmarked by Election Day.
  • Illinois: This solidly blue state will have some of its results in on election night, but votes will continue to be counted for weeks because of the state’s November 17 deadline for mail-in ballots.
  • Maryland: This solidly blue state will have some of its results in on election night, but votes will continue to be counted because of the state’s November 13 deadline for mail-in ballots.
  • Nevada: This likely blue state expects to have some of its results in on election night, but votes will continue to be counted because of the state’s November 10 deadline for mail-in ballots.
  • New Jersey: This solidly blue state expects to take weeks to report its results. The deadline to receive mail-in ballots is November 10, the same day they plan to start counting in-person votes.
  • New York: This deep-blue state expects to have its results from in-person votes reported by election night, but mail-in ballots will continue to be counted for days, starting November 6.
  • Utah: This red state typically takes a while to report its results, and the last date to receive a mail-in ballot is November 17.
  • Washington: This blue state typically votes by mail so should have some of its results in on election night, but it allows ballots to be counted until November 23.
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