A Guide to Election Day

Wall Street’s main concern is what the election will mean for the prospects of another stimulus bill, and The Times’s Matt Phillips lays out the various scenarios that strategists are anticipating. Stepping back, “the medium-term path for markets is more contingent both on fiscal stimulus and on vaccine approval and distribution rather than the election result,” Mark Haefele of UBS wrote in a note to clients.

When will we know the results?

Official results won’t be certified immediately — more on that below — but news outlets like The Associated Press typically declare a winner based on early returns. To get into the nitty-gritty of county-by-county results, here’s a handy guide. (For what it’s worth, in 2016 the election was settled around 2:30 a.m. Eastern after Wisconsin was called for Mr. Trump.)

Is The Times doing the election-night needle again?

Sort of. Instead of one needle representing the national race (which would be impossible given the amount of mail-in ballots), we’ll have three tracking the key battleground states of Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. These states release their results starting at 7 p.m. Eastern and should give the clearest guidance of how close the count may be.

What if there is no obvious winner?

Several cases may end up on the Supreme Court’s “shadow docket” of emergency matters. In ballot fights so far, the court has tried to maintain a delicate balancing act, and has mostly respected state deadlines on voting without ruling on specifics. (Justice Amy Coney Barrett, however, may play a key deciding role in election cases.)

What if a candidate claims victory anyway?

They don’t decide the issue, of course, but they could try to declare a win, presenting news networks with a big challenge. Ultimately, states will certify their official results, but that may not come for days or weeks — and could be subject to legal challenges.

In part, this potential turmoil is why stores and bank branches are boarded up in big cities like New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

How will social media handle the election?

  • Facebook will add a notification at the top of users’ feeds stating that no winner has been chosen until results have been verified by vetted outlets. After polls close, it will suspend all political ads on its namesake app and Instagram.

  • Twitter will label tweets from candidates claiming victory before the election is called by authoritative sources. It will also work to root out bots that spread misinformation.

  • YouTube will display a fact-check information panel above election-related search results and below videos about the topic.

What else is on the ballot?

There are plenty of important matters to be decided at the polls, beyond candidates for the White House and Congress.