Grab some snacks, the TV remote, your calculator and a schedule of poll closings. You might also want to caffeinate because it could be a late night.
The tumult and tedium of Campaign 2016 finally culminates Tuesday as the nation chooses among Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and a variety of third-party types.
The action will roll from east coast to west, from pre-dawn voting in New Hampshire to late-night poll closes in Alaska.
Some things to watch for as the autumn of our campaign discontent hurtles to a close (all times are EST):
Look for the first burst of results when polls close at 7 p.m. in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia. Look for bigger blasts of numbers just after 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., when polls close in a combined 30 states and the District of Columbia. The 11 p.m. batch of states includes big kahuna California, with 55 electoral votes. Alaska, where polls close at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, brings up the rear.
Mom Was Right
Math really does matter. Election Day is all about which candidate can win enough states to get to 270 electoral votes. News organizations will keep a running tally. But you can go full nerd and play around with a Road to 270 calculator to get your favored candidate to the magic number. Beware: It can take a while for the picture on election night to clarify, simply because of how the vote rolls in across the country. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney was still ahead in the electoral and popular vote at 10:30 p.m.; an hour later, President Barack Obama was on the brink of re-election.
New York, New York
Thanks to early voting, more than 50 million people may have voted before Election Day. Not Clinton or Trump. Both are expected to make a show of trekking to their local polling places on Tuesday, Clinton in Chappaqua, New York, and Trump in New York City. Their running mates—Democrat Tim Kaine of Virginia and Republican Mike Pence of Indiana—will vote where they live, and later team up with their principals in New York.
Early Tea Leaves
For an early read on how things are going, keep an eye on Virginia in the presidential contest. If Clinton doesn’t get a winner’s call there by 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., it could be a positive sign for Trump. Watch Indiana for an early indicator in the tug-of-war for control of the Senate; if Evan Bayh can manage a comeback, that’ll be a good sign for Democrats hoping to retake the Senate.
Exit Poll Explanations
Data collected from polling-place interviews with voters will offer a wealth of information to help explain why people voted the way they did. Among the questions to be answered by the exit polls:
—Do voters cast ballots for their candidates enthusiastically or holding their noses?
—Do blacks give strong backing to Clinton after recent worries about their turnout in early voting?
—Who wins college-educated whites, who typically skew Republican but are being courted by Clinton?
—In a race so often roiled by Trump’s comments about women, what does the gender gap look like?
—Did people care about Clinton’s problems with her private email setup?
—Were they worried about Trump’s temperament?
The reddest of the red states actually offers some drama this year. Keep an eye on the Utah vote for independent Evan McMullin, who’s been giving Trump heartburn in a state that should be a lock for him. (Polls close at 10 p.m. EST)
If Clinton emerges the victor, it will be a historic moment for women as she shatters that “highest, hardest glass ceiling.”
The Big Question
The question has been dangling out there: Will Trump accept the results of the presidential election if he loses? “I’ll keep you in suspense,” he said at the last debate. The world is waiting for his answer.
A Time to Heal
Election night speeches have “tremendous power to heal,” says public speaking coach Ruth Sherman. Will the candidates rise to the moment? After such a long, ugly campaign, both winner and loser will have a responsibility to help to bring the country together.
Wait, There’s More!
The presidential race has sucked up most of the oxygen over the past year, but there will be lots more to take in on election night, with control of the Senate and House at stake, 12 states electing governors, and assorted ballot proposals around the country.
In the House: Republicans hold a 247-188 majority, including three vacancies. Democrats could pick up 10 or more seats, perhaps even more than 20, but don’t expect to take control.
In the Senate: Republicans are furiously working to protect their 54-46 majority, with a half-dozen races seen as toss-ups.
A dozen governor’s offices also are up for grabs, at least seven appearing competitive. Among issues on ballot proposals: the death penalty, gun control and marijuana legalization.