Hey political junkies: Plan for an Election Day marathon
By NANCY BENAC
WASHINGTON (AP) — Grab some toothpicks to prop open your eyelids because Election Day promises to be a marathon.
Polls open before dawn on Tuesday, Nov. 8, and it will be Wednesday on the East Coast before the last votes are cast in Alaska.
It will be strictly a spectator sport for the estimated 46 million people who are likely to vote in advance. Colorado, Oregon and Washington are mostly vote-by-mail states.
The presidential nominees, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are expected to vote the old-fashioned way, trooping to their polling places in New York and undoubtedly trailed by cameras.
Their running mates, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Mike Pence of Indiana, are likely to vote at home, later heading for New York to team up with their principals after spending much of the last three months promoting their respective tickets on their own.
It's a curtain-closer on one doozy of a presidential election and on House and Senate races that will determine which party controls Congress for the next two years.
A look at how Election Day unfolds, using Eastern time:
—6 a.m.: The earliest polls open in scattered states along the East Coast. Already, though, a few hardy folk in three tiny New Hampshire towns will have gathered just after midnight to win bragging rights as the first to cast Election Day ballots.
—7 p.m.: Polls close in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia. This will be the first opportunity to read tea leaves about how things are going. Watch Virginia for an early indication in the presidential contest. Watch Indiana for an early indicator in the Senate; if Evan Bayh can manage a comeback, that'll be a good sign for Democrats who are hoping to retake the Senate.
—7:30 p.m.: North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia polls close. North Carolina is a good state to watch on the presidency. It tends to be quick-counting but the race is also close. On the Senate side, if Democrat Deborah Ross wins her Senate race there, it will help put her party on track to regain the Senate. Currently, the Senate has 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats.
—8 p.m.: Polls close in 16 states and the District of Columbia, including New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. Lots of states crucial to control of the Senate are among the 8 p.m. states, too. If Democrats were to win in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri and New Hampshire, as well as Indiana, that would point them toward possible control of the chamber.
—8:30 p.m. Arkansas chimes in, considered a solid state for Trump.
—9 p.m.: Polls close in 14 states, including Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Wisconsin. Among the 9 p.m. states, Wisconsin offers Democrats their best chance to pick up a Senate seat. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is in a close race against former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.
—10 p.m.: Polls close in four states, including Utah, which is an improbable toss-up this year despite its reliably Republican history. That's because Trump is deeply unpopular with Utah's Mormons, who are giving a serious look to third-party candidates Evan McMullin and Gary Johnson.
—11 p.m.: Polls close in five states including solidly Democratic California with its 55 electoral votes.
Be warned: It can take a while for the presidential picture to clarify. 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.
—Midnight: It could well be Wednesday before it's clear who will control the House next year. Democrats would need a daunting 30-seat gain to take over the 435-seat chamber.
—1 a.m. Wednesday: Polls close in Alaska, which controls the last three presidential electoral votes.