As evening turns into night in the Eastern and Central time zones, the pace picks up. For whatever reason, 8:00 p.m. is a popular time for states in the Eastern time zone to close their polls as is 7:00 p.m. in the Central time zone. As discussed in part two, lines at the polls means that the networks typically only have enough results to call races if the races are not close. Most of the states that will be called by 8:00 p.m. are not the races that will decide the election. Because most of the polls will have been closed for two hours, there is a good chance that the Indiana senate race may be called by 8:00 p.m. There is some chance that Georgia (an at-risk state that Trump needs to win) or Virginia (an at-risk state that Clinton needs to win) will be called before 8:00 p.m. Sixteen states will close their polls at 8:00 p.m. as will the polls in part of several other states. While the results from the early states give some clues about the shape of the race, the shape of the race will become much clearer when the returns from these states start to come in.
8:00 p.m. (EST) — The remainder of the polls close in Florida. The polls close in Alabama, Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. The polls close in the eastern part of Michigan, Kansas, South Dakota, and Texas. Several of these states should have quick calls for president, but several states are key states for the outcome of this election. (Assuming that none of the “close” states from early are called by 8:15 p.m., the projected electoral vote should be approximately 76 for Trump and 55 for Clinton.)
In particular, the Clinton campaign’s “blue wall” lies with four of these states — Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. These four states plus Wisconsin, Virginia, and Colorado are the at-risk states that Clinton needs to win to get to 270 (actually 272). Additionally, Maine’s second district is one of the votes that Trump needs in his best path to 270. Right now, New Hampshire seems to be the state that is closest. If by 9:00 p.m., Clinton has won Virginia, all four electoral votes in Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania and is getting good early numbers from Michigan, the race will be all but over.
For the U.S. Senate, the key races are Illinois, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. Illinois should be a relatively quick call. It is the state most likely to change hands. The other three are three of the seven that are seen as most likely to decide control. In all three states, it is cherry pick your poll. My hunch is that the Democrats are up in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania and that Missouri might not be decided until near midnight Eastern time (if not later).
As far as governor’s races are concerned, Missouri and New Hampshire are the two key states. Both are swing states that are currently controlled by the Democrats.
Part of the problem with the House is how few seats nationally are at risk. Approximately 80% of the seats are considered to be not at risk. The only Democratic seats seen as potentially at risk are Maryland 6 and Pennsylvania 17. There are a lot more Republican seats at risk in these states. The seats that the Democrats need to gain to have a shot at a majority are Illinois 10, Maine 2, Michigan 1, New Jersey 5, Pennsylvania 8, and Texas 23. The seats that the Democrats need to win some of to get a majority are Kansas 3, Michigan 6, Michigan 7, Michigan 8, Pennsylvania 6, Pennsylvania 16, Texas 10, and Texas 14. (Part of Michigan 1 is in the Central time zone.)
8:30 p.m. (EST) — Arkansas is the last state to close on the half hour. Arkansas and its six electoral votes should be quickly called for Trump.
As 9:00 p.m. approaches, there should be enough raw votes coming in from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia to either indicate a long night in those states or to actually call those states. If Secretary Clinton has picked up some of the states in addition to Virginia, she is probably the next President of the United States. While not absolutely necessary to Democrats taking the Senate, picking up one of the Senate seats from Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio would make it likely that the Democrats will gain a majority.