Exit Polls 2012: When to Expect Exit Poll Results in Each State After 5 PM

Tonight, many of you will be glued to your TV scrren, hitting the blogs and Tweeting like crazy. For those of you salivating over news sources, here are a few reminders.

First, as Ezra Klein points out over on the Wonkblog, any reporting before 5 p.m. is not reliable, so beware of those early exit poll numbers. Secondly, the 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. window is when many of the East Coast swing state polls close with a lot of close races for the various branches of government. (Still, some polls in a few states are open until 8:00pm.)

Keeping track of races and poll times isn’t easy, so I’ve tried to combine some of the closer races with their poll closing times below to help navigate an exciting evening.

For the toss up Senate races, early on look for Indiana’s polls to close at 6 p.m. (A few polls close later at 7 p.m. in the western part of the state.) At 7 p.m., keep an eye out for results in Virginia’s Senate race. Following at 8 p.m., look for Maine, Massachusetts and Missouri’s Senate race results. Then, Wisconsin closes at 9 and Nevada and Montana at 10 p.m. The results may be delayed depending on how close they truly are, but these are all key races in toss up states.

For the House, there’s more to keep track of, with a projected 24 toss-up races. Very quickly:

Polls closing at 7: Florida 18th and 26th; Georgia 12th; New Hampshire 2nd

Polls closing at 7:30: North Carolina 8th; Ohio 6th and 16th

Polls closing at 8: Connecticut 5th; Illinois 12th, Massachusetts 6th; Michigan 1st; Pennsylvania 12th

Polls closing at 9: Arizona 1st and 2nd; Minnesota 8th: New York 1st,11th, 24th and 27th   

Polls closing at 10: Iowa 3rd; Utah 4th

Polls closing at 11: California 7th, 41st, and 52nd

Keep in mind there are many House races leaning but not solid for both candidates which aren't included in the list above.

When it comes to the presidential race, note that for Ohio, most likely for Virginia and quite possibly for Florida, the results may be contested by either of the campaigns (especially when it comes to Ohio’s provisional ballots). There is reason to be cautious even as the media outlets race to be the first to report.

Finally, we know that the race is hinging on several states thanks to the Electoral College. Many of them close early. As many others have pointed out, if Florida swings to Obama, the race is virtually over. Look for results coming out there in that 7 to 7:30 p.m. time slot— unless they're contested, of course.

There will be multiple running electoral counts of course on all stations to help figure out where we are in the count to 270. But for other swing states, we also should be keeping an eye on Colorado (polls close at 9), Iowa (polls close at 10), New Hampshire (polls close at 7) and Wisconsin (polls close at 9), widely considered toss-up states.

Finally, here are the states leaning towards one candidate or the other along with their poll closing times: Maine (polls close at 8), Michigan (polls close at 8), Minnesota (polls close at 9), New Mexico (polls close at 9), Nevada (polls close at 10) and Pennsylvania (polls close at 8) for Obama and Arizona (polls close at 9) and North Carolina (polls close at 7:30) for Romney.

As a closing note, if you’re having trouble controlling your nerves and therefore can’t focus, pass time fiddling with this New York Times interactive – seriously addictive