It’s increasingly unlikely, however, that the country will know the winner of the 2020 contest between President Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden by the end of the night because of the millions of voters who have already cast their ballots by mail and the expected delays in counting and reporting those results.
Because more Republicans than Democrats are likely to vote in person, the early tallies could show huge gains for Trump, but that advantage could dwindle as states count their mail-in and absentee ballots.
It all makes for an evening in which established news outlets will be hard-pressed to declare a winner, and that will mean all eyes will be watching the crucial battleground states to provide key signs as to the outcome.
Here is how to follow along from home, and what to watch for as the night progresses:
What time will election results coverage start?
Most major television networks and news outlets had all-day election coverage and will carry live updates through online streaming and live TV. The Post will update a live blog throughout the night with results and other developments as they happen.
How can you watch election coverage with cable?
All cable news networks, including Fox News, CNN and MSNBC will have rolling election coverage throughout the night with exit polling, state results and results from congressional and Senate races.
How can you watch election coverage without cable?
Network television will also carry live election results all night. At ABC, George Stephanopoulos, David Muir, and Linsey Davis will show results starting at 7 p.m.
CBS will feature host Norah O’Donnell who will be joined by Gayle King, Margaret Brennan, John Dickerson, and Ed O’Keefe.
At NBC, “Decision 2020” will kick off at 7 p.m and continue through 4 a.m. on Wednesday. Journalists Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie, Chuck Todd, and Andrea Mitchell will provide the network’s coverage.
What are the critical battleground states?
Arizona, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Iowa and Georgia.
Where does the race stand in those states and how many Electoral College votes are at stake?
A candidate needs 270 to win.
Arizona: 11 electoral votes. A RealClear Politics average of the polls gives Biden a 1 percentage point edge –47.6 to 46.6 percent.
Ohio: 18 electoral votes. RCP has Trump ahead 1.2 percentage points — 47.4 to 46.2 percent.
Pennsylvania: 20 electoral votes. RCP has Biden up by 2.7 percentage points — 48.8 to 46.1 percent.
Florida: 29 electoral votes. RCP has Biden leading by 1 percentage point — 48.3 to 47.3 percent.
Michigan: 16 electoral votes. RCP has Biden with a 5.1 percentage point lead over Trump — 49.8 to 44.7 percent.
Wisconsin: 10 electoral votes. RCP puts Biden ahead by 6.6 percentage points — 50.7 to 44.1 percent.
North Carolina: 15 electoral votes. RCP has Trump leading Biden by 0.5 percentage point — 47.8 to 47.2 percent.
Iowa: 6 electoral votes. RCP gives Trump a 1.4 percentage point lead over Biden — 47.2 to 45.8 percent.
Georgia: 16 electoral votes. RCP has Biden up 0.4 percentage points — 47.8 to 47.4 percent.
What time do polls close in the battleground states?
Arizona: 9 p.m. Eastern time
Ohio: 7:30 p.m. ET
Pennsylvania: 8 p.m. ET
Florida: last polls close at 8 p.m. ET
Michigan: 9 p.m. ET
Wisconsin: 9 p.m. ET
North Carolina: 7:30 p.m. ET
Iowa: 10 p.m. ET
Georgia: 7 p.m. ET
What states could delay the count beyond Election Day?
The three battlegrounds that could play a critical role in pushing one of the candidates past the Electoral College threshold are Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin cannot start counting mail-in ballots until Tuesday.
Election officials in Wisconsin said they were confident that results will be ready by Wednesday morning.
The Supreme Court gave Pennsylvania three days to count the ballots after Election Day.
Michigan began processing mail-in ballots on Monday but a full count may not be ready until Friday.
Which states will be an early indicator of how the election is turning out?
Georgia and Ohio.
The Peach State has only supported three Democratic presidential candidates since 1960 — swinging twice for Georgia native Jimmy Carter.
A win for Biden would mean it’s possible a blue wave is developing.
A loss for Trump in the state he won by 5 percentage points in 2016 would signal that Republican support has weakened.
No Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio.