How the Returns Will Come In
FiveThirtyEight has a great page called When Do Polls Close where you can learn more about the details of each state, when their polls close, when they’re report totals, and if we expect the numbers to shift over time. But it’s in alphabetical order, and I thought it might be nice to see how things will come in, hour-by-hour.
Note: I’m basing these on the times the polls close, not when results are announced. Some states will announce immediately, others will start showing data after 10 minutes, others will take longer still. But this will give us a good baseline.
Drop #1: 7pm EST/4pm PST/1pm NZST/1am GMT
Polls close in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia.
Too close to call: Georgia (16)
Drop #2: 30 minutes later
Polls close in North Carolina, West Virginia, and Ohio
Too close to call: Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio (49)
Drop #3: 8pm EST/5pm PST/2pm NZST/2am GMT
This is one of the biggest drops of the night, but it brings a lot more races that will be too close to call. It’s at this point where Trump loses his lead and never gains it back again.
Polls close in Alabama, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee, representing 172 electoral votes.
Too close to call: Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania (98)
Drop #4: 9pm EST/6pm PST/3pm NZST/3am GMT
A bunch of key swing states are going to commit their numbers here, and quite a few of them will favour Biden. That is going to make the numbers quite interesting. Biden will add 79 thanks to large states, which is more than Trump’s entire total up until now. Trump will only add 26 because the states he’ll win will be small in population.
This is where we’ll see numbers that Biden is ahead in both Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The anchors will urge caution, saying the races still can’t be called. But the leads will be insurmountable. Biden will have 175, but they’ll say it’s 139 because they won’t have called the Rust Belt yet.
Too close to call: Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Texas (147)
Drop #5: 10pm EST/7pm PST/4pm NZST/4am GMT
Polls close in Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Utah. None of these will be surprising.
Too close to call: 147 (unchanged)
Drop #6: 11pm EST/8pm PST/5pm NZST/5am GMT
Polls close in California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington. Biden gets the big states for 72 more votes, Trump gets Idaho’s 4. Poor Idaho.
Too close to call: 147 (unchanged)
Drop #7: The next few hours
Polls will close in Hawaii and Alaska, adding 4 to Biden’s total and 3 to Trump’s. That leaves us here:
But by now many of these “too close to be called” states will, in fact, have been called. Meaning the election will be functionally over, even as the GOP talks about irregularities and disputes the vote.
Analysing the “too close to calls”
Trump will probably get Ohio, Texas, and Georgia, increasing his total to 196.
That leaves Pennsylvania and Arizona, both obvious Biden pickups based on the latest polling. And that would push his numbers to 288. (Although I’m sure PA will have a long and drawn out fight to finally award it to Biden.)
Which leaves Florida. I have no idea what’s going to happen in Florida.
But Biden will win in the end. And the numbers will be clear within about 24 hours. And there will be nothing Trump can do about it.