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Towle’s Guide to Watching Election Returns for 2016


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Michael Towle, Ph.D.

Dr. Mike TowlePolitical Science Professor & Department Chair

For many years, I have been handing out my election predictions and “poll watching guide” to students and colleagues. While this began as something for my Parties and Elections course (PS315), some people have indicated that they like having my write-ups on election night. My goal is to educate, generate discussion about the processes of American politics, and to have some fun. Some years I have done very well in my predictions. In other years, there were outcomes that I didn’t see coming.

Before I give my predictions, I will first lay out what to expect when watching election results. The Associated Press coordinates the counting of the vote tallies as they are reported in various states and localities across the country, and these tallies are continuously reported to the major news networks. Networks use a number of techniques to determine the winner of an election even prior to all the votes being counted. In some cases, when the outcome is very obvious, the networks may announce a winner with only a small fraction (or even none) of the vote having been tallied. To do this, they rely on the National Election Pool (NEP). The NEP is a creation of the networks and the AP, and it conducts exit polls which are supposed to be highly guarded secrets until after outcomes are announced. Networks in turn compare certain precincts for results, and if the results correspond with the exits polls then they become more confident that they can announce the outcome of a race.

Generally speaking, the networks and the associated press (AP) do not make their announcements on the outcome of the election in a state until all the polls have closed in that state.[1] For this reason, I include here a guide to the poll closing times, given in EASTERN STANDARD TIME, according to when the LAST polls close in each state.

7 p.m. – GA, IN, KY, SC, VT, VA

7:30 p.m. – NC, OH, WV

8 p.m. – AL, CT, DC, DE, FL, IL, ME, MD, MA, MS, MO, NH, NJ, OK, PA, RI, TN

8:30 p.m. – AR

9 p.m. – AZ, CO, KS, LA, MI, MN, NE, NM, NY, RI, SD, TX, WI, WY

10 p.m. – IA, MT, NV, ND, UT

11 p.m. – CA, HI, ID, OR, WA

1 a.m. – AK

Most Florida polling places close at 7 p.m. EST. But a small section of the Florida panhandle is in the Central time zone, and those polls don’t close until 7 p.m. CST, which is 8 p.m. EST. If there is obvious news out of Florida, will the networks have the discipline to wait until 8 p.m.?

Here is how I see the night progressing, in three possibilities:

You can probably go to bed and forget about it if any of these scenarios emerge before 9 p.m.:

  • Trump loses Florida without winning NC, VA, and PA.

    • Clinton wins PA, VA, and NH. (Trump would have to win every other tossup, and then take NV and CO.

    • Trump wins PA and NH and either FL or VA. (Clinton could still do it if Trump has VA but not FL, but she’s need to have a perfect night after that).

Make some popcorn and prop up your feet if Trump wins either Michigan or Wisconsin. Several possible scenarios emerge:

  • Trump could win with FL plus various combinations of CO, NM, NH and/or NV.

Early indication of an extremely good night for one political party if:

  • FOR THE DEMOCRATS: Clinton wins GA.

  • FOR THE REPUBLICANS: Trump wins Pennsylvania.

It is usually (but not always) the case that stronger-than-expected results all go in the same direction. That is, it would be atypical for Trump to win big in Florida, but for Clinton to win big in Ohio. Usually these sorts of swings occur in tandem.


[1] This year there is a new factor that may undermine the tradition of waiting to report results. A company called Votecastr will be stationing 100s of observers at precincts in battleground states, and these observers will update their observations all day long. By comparing the observations with data collected prior to election day, Votecastr will continuously update voting projections based on what they interpret to be the partisanship of the voters showing up. This has generated some controversy from those who believe it is bad practice to release data while voting is still going on.
 


Predictions for each state in the electoral college, and each senate race this year.

Immediately after I completed my chart, I found an article that put together a “consensus” prediction of the Electoral College from several political commentators. It matched my prediction exactly. This worries me, because the “conventional wisdom” often involves everyone missing the same thing. Still, it reflects my best guess.

Summary of Predictions:

  • Hillary Clinton will be elected President with 322 Electoral Votes.

  • Clinton popular vote percent: 47.8

  • Trump popular vote percent 43.0

  • The Democrats will pick up 4 seats in the Senate.  This will result in a tied Senate (50-50).  As a result, the new Vice President will determine the majority party.

  • The Democrats will pick up 18 seats in the House, but the Republicans will maintain majority control of the House of Representatives by a total of 229 to 206.



Presidential Race 2016

State
Electoral votes for:
 
Trump
Clinton

Alabama

9

 

Alaska

3

 

Arizona

11

 

Arkansas

6

 

California

 

55

Colorado

 

9

Connecticut

 

7

Delaware

 

3

DC

 

3

Florida

 

29

Georgia

16

 

Hawaii

 

4

Idaho

4

 

Illinois

 

20

Indiana

11

 

Iowa

6

 

Kansas

6

 

Kentucky

8

 

Louisiana

8

 

Maine -- statewide

 

2

Maine -- districts

1

1

Maryland

 

10

Massachusetts

 

11

Michigan

 

16

Minnesota

 

10

Mississippi

6

 

Missouri

10

 

Montana

3

 

Nebraska -- Statewide

2

 

Nebraska -- districts

3

 

Nevada

 

6

New Hampshire

 

4

New Jersey

 

14

New Mexico

 

5

New York

 

29

North Carolina

 

15

North Dakota

3

 

Ohio

18

 

Oklahoma

7

 

Oregon

 

7

Pennsylvania

 

20

Rhode Island

 

4

South Carolina

9

 

South Dakota

3

 

Tennessee

11

 

Texas

38

 

Utah

6

 

Vermont

 

3

Virginia

 

13

Washington

 

12

West Virginia

5

 

Wisconsin

 

10

Wyoming

3

 

Total:
216
322
   

Senate Race 2016

State
Democrat
Republican
Towle Predicts:

 

Shading in the cells below indicates a predicted party change.

 

Shaded below indicates a race worth watching.

 

 

 

Italics below indicates an incumbent

 

 
Current Party
Predicted Party
Party Switch?

Alabama

Ron Crumpton

Richard Shelby

Shelby

 

R

R

 

Alaska

Ray Metcalfe

Lisa Murkowski

Murkowski

 

R

R

 

Arizona

Ann Kirkpatrick

John McCain

McCain

 

R

R

 

Arkansas

Connor Eldridge

John Boozman

Boozman

 

R

R

 

California

California uses a top-two election primary system. The primary has already occurred. Both finalists are Democrats: Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez.

Harris

 

D

D

 

Colorado

Michael Bennet

Daryl Glynn

Bennet

 

D

D

 

Connecticut

Richard Blumenthal

Dan Carter

Blumenthal

 

D

D

 

Florida

Patrick Murphy

Marco Rubio

Rubio

 

R

R

 

Georgia

Jim Barksdale

Johnny Isakson

Isakson

 

R

R

 

Hawaii

Brian Schatz

John Carroll

Schatz

 

D

D

 

Idaho

Jerry Sturgill

Mike Crapo

Crapo

 

R

R

 

Illinois

Tammy Duckworth

Mark Kirk

Duckworth

 

R

D

yes

Indiana

Evan Bayh

Todd Young

Young

 

R

R

 

Iowa

Patty Judge

Chuck Grassley

Grassley

 

R

R

 

Kansas

Patrick Weisner

Jerry Moran

Moran

 

R

R

 

Kentucky

Jim Gray

Rand Paul

Paul

 

R

R

 

Louisiana

Louisiana uses a jungle primary, starting with November 8. No incumbent running. Top two will face each other in November.

 

R

R

 

Maryland

Chris Van Hollen

Kathy Szeliga

Van Hollen

 

D

D

 

Missouri

Jason Kander

Roy Blunt

Blunt

 

R

 

 

Nevada

Catherine Cortez Masto

Joe Heck

Cortez

 

D

D

 

New Hampshire

Maggie Hassan

Kelly Ayotte

Ayotte

 

R

R

 

New York

Chuck Schumer

Wendy Long

Schumer

 

D

D

 

North Carolina

Deborah Ross

Richard Burr

Ross

 

R

D

yes

North Dakota

Elliot Glassheim

John Hoeven

Hoeven

 

R

R

 

Ohio

Ted Strickland

Rob Portman

Portman

 

R

R

 

Oklahoma

Mike Workman

James Lankford

Lankford

 

R

R

 

Oregon

Ron Wyden

Mark Callahan

Wyden

 

D

D

 

Pennsylvania

Kathleen McGinty

Pat Toomey

McGinty

 

R

D

yes

South Carolina

Thomas Dixon

Tim Scott

Scott

 

R

R

 

South Dakota

Jay Williams

John Thune

Thune

 

R

R

 

Utah

Misty Snow

Mike Lee

Lee

 

R

R

 

Vermont

Patrick Leahy

Scott Milne

Leahy

 

D

D

 

Washington

Patty Murray

Chris Vance

Murray

 

D

D

 

Wisconsin

Russ Feingold

Ron Johnson

Feingold

 

R

D

yes


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