What We’ll Know on Every Hour of The Election

Signs of a Trump win: If Mr. Trump has already fought Mr. Biden to a draw in Florida, this one could go down to the wire — a precondition for a national Trump victory. At this point, victory in Florida would come down to the straggling Election Day vote: Democratic ballots in Miami-Dade and Broward, versus a whole lot of Republican vote elsewhere in the state. Again, the needle will be your guide.

Tips on these states:

In theory, both of these states should count all of their ballots in no particular order, but I don’t know much about what to expect here. I strongly recommend waiting to see the vote in a completed township before rushing to any judgments.

This could be painful. The state will mainly be counting in-person Election Day ballots on election night, because state law prohibits election administrators from even opening mail ballots until Election Day. That means it’s going to be a while until they get through all the mail votes, which represent one-third of the overall vote. In the final Times/Siena survey, Mr. Biden had a 75-19 lead among voters who requested an absentee ballot and an 80-13 lead among those who had returned one. Mr. Trump could easily lead all through the night, even if he’s on track for a decisive loss.

The early votes from metropolitan areas will arrive quickly, which will appear to give Mr. Biden a big lead. Then we’ll have to see whether Mr. Trump can catch up with rural and Election Day votes. Texas can take a while to count its votes, but it ought to be mostly finished on election night. That’s more than we can say for a lot of states.

Major poll closings: Arizona, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan (final polls close in Central time zone)

What to watch: This is the moment when we’ll probably have a good idea of what direction this night is heading. We’ll have a very good sense of what happened in Florida and North Carolina, which will have either effectively decided the election in Mr. Biden’s favor or kept the president’s hopes alive. We’ll now start to turn to the Midwest, where we’ll get our first indications of whether Mr. Biden can win back the white working-class voters who abandoned Democrats four years ago.

Signs of a Biden win: If Mr. Biden’s still leading or outright victorious in North Carolina and Florida, according to the needle. We also ought to have some counties all wrapped up in Ohio, for our first clear look at what’s happening in the Midwest. If Mr. Biden is running well ahead of Mrs. Clinton’s performance there in 2016, that will be a clear tell that the polls were generally right about his strength among white voters.