Updated on November 3, 2020 at 12:35 p.m. ET
When will we know who won? Which House and Senate races should I be watching? How can I tell who’s going to win before a race is called? These are the questions that many Americans will be asking themselves tonight—and the ones that those of us who cover politics have to try to answer. But we get paid to do this. So this year, we’ve decided to give back a little, and tell you how we, the Politics team at The Atlantic, recommend following Election Night 2020. Here’s what you need to know.
First, let’s get the biggest logistical question out of the way: When will races actually be called? It’s hard to say in a normal year, and it’s especially hard to know this year, given the pandemic, widespread changes to voting laws, and an election with potentially huge turnout. The first polls close at 6 p.m., in the parts of Indiana and Kentucky that are in the eastern time zone. But since polls in the central-time portions of those states don’t close until 7 ET, you’ll have to wait until at least then for networks to make a call. You can find the rest of the poll closing times on this very handy Daily Kos elections map; I usually just print it out and hang it next to my desk for reference. This hour-by-hour Election Night guide from my colleague Derek Thompson offers even more detail. And as you’ve probably already heard, there’s a decent chance that it will take days or even weeks before we’re sure of the winner of the presidential election—although Donald Trump is reportedly considering prematurely declaring victory.