It's a close race for the White House, a close race for Tammy Baldwin's bid to the U.S. Senate, five unpredictable outcomes on marriage-related votes and an openly gay caucus in Congress that could total either three or six by the end of the evening.
The stakes and the consequences of the results are so high that many LGBT people will be staying up late Nov. 6 to watch it all unfold.
The National Election Pool, a coalition of mainstream media organizations who conduct exit polling in order to project results, is doing things differently this year to accommodate the increase in early voting. They predict, as a result of their modifications, projections may trickle out more slowly this year than in the past. But this guide will give political enthusiasts some idea of when the most important results will start becoming apparent.
6 p.m. Central
Polls close in the first six states, including the crucial swing state of Virginia. All six states hold a total of 60 electoral votes and, chances are, 44 will go to Romney and three to Obama. The wild card is Virginia, a state with 13 electoral votes that has been hard to predict for weeks. If those votes go to Romney, Democrats will need to get a drink. But if they go to Obama, Republicans might start pacing. Another important race in Virginia will be the outcome of the race for Virginia's open U.S. Senate seat: If pro-gay Democrat Tim Kaine wins, another sigh of relief, but if anti-gay George Allen wins, Democrats will have to start worrying about the majority in the Senate.
Best-case scenario: Romney wins Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina and Obama wins Vermont and Virginia.
Electoral count: Romney 44, Obama 16
Senate marker: Good news if Kaine beats Allen
6:30 p.m. Central
The most important news to listen for at 6:30 p.m. is who's winning Ohio. This has become perhaps the most important of the battleground states and its 18 electoral votes are seen as absolutely critical to Romney's chances of counting up to 270the total electoral votes needed to win the White House.
Best-case scenario: Romney wins North Carolina and West Virginia, Obama wins Ohio
Electoral count: Romney 64, Obama 34
7 p.m. Central
Seven o'clock is when the big kahuna of electoral votes comes flooding in210 in all. Of those, 96 are expected to go to Obama, including 20 from Illinois. Romney is likely to pick up 81, including 38 from Texas. The big question is who will pick up Florida's 29 and New Hampshire's four.
Also at 7 p.m., polls close in Maine and Maryland, where voters are being asked to determine whether the state can begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. LGBT supporters want a "Yes" vote on Question 1 in Maine and a "Yes" for Question 6 in Maryland.
And the Senate race between incumbent Republican Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren has been seen as a very important factor in determining who will control the Senate.
Likely scenario: Romney 174, Obama 134
Best-case scenario: Maine votes "Yes" on Question 1 and Maryland votes "Yes" on Question 6
Best Senate scenario: Warren beats Brown
Best House scenario: Openly gay U.S. Rep. David Cicilline wins re-election from Rhode Island and openly gay Richard Tisei wins his bid for a U.S. House seat from Massachusetts' 6th Congressional district, becoming the only openly gay Republican in Congress.
7:30 p.m. Central
Arkansas' six electoral votes will almost certainly go to Romney.
Likely scenario: Romney 180, Obama 134
8 p.m. Central
At 8 is when the second largest number of electoral votes come online. Romney will likely pick up 30, Obama will pick up 60. The question marks are Wisconsin and Colorado, with 10 and nine respectively.
Add to Wisconsin this twist: Liberal openly gay U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin has a real chance of becoming the first openly gay person to be elected to the U.S. Senate. She's in a very tight race against popular former Governor Tommy Thompson.
And add to Minnesota, with 10 electoral votes, hosting a vote on a ballot measureProposed Amendment No. 1to amend the state's constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Except for the ballot measure, which can attract a large turnout from conservatives, Minnesota can lean Obama.
Best-case scenario: Romney 210, Obama 213
Best Senate scenario: Baldwin wins
Likely scenario: Minnesota votes "Yes" for Proposed Amendment 1
Best-case scenario: Openly gay State Rep. Marc Pacon wins Baldwin's old seat, openly gay U.S. Rep. Jared Polis wins re-election from Colorado, newcomer Sean Maloney wins a U.S. House seat from New York's 18th District, and newcomer Kyrsten Sinema wins the U.S. House seat from Arizona's 9th.
9 p.m. Central
Only 27 electoral votes are up on the boards after 10 and Romney has a good hold on 15 of them. Up for grabs are six electoral votes in Iowa and six in Nevada. Obama has campaigned heavily in both states and has a good chance to pull those to his column.
Also of interest is the vote on Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins wholike three colleagues before himmust survive a retention vote but one in which anti-gay forces are determined to oust him.
Best-case scenario: Romney 225, Obama 235
Best-case scenario: Wiggins wins
10 p.m. Central
This is the hour when, if all goes well in the first three hours, President Obama takes the White House with the electoral escort of California's 55 electoral votes, putting him well over the 270 needed. In fact, at 10 p.m., Obama will likely rake in 78 electoral votesfrom California, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii. Romney will pick up a total of only seven from North Dakota and Idaho.
Also of interest in this hour will be the vote in Washington state on Referendum 74. A "Yes" vote will preserve a marriage-equality law the legislature passed earlier this year.
Best-case scenario: Romney 232, Obama 313 and secures the White House
Best-case scenario: Washington votes "Yes" for Referendum 74
Best-case scenario: Openly gay Democrat Mark Takano wins the U.S. House seat for California District 41, representing southern California. His victory could, if Mark Pacon wins Baldwin's seat, bring the openly gay caucus in Congress back up to four (with the loss of retiring Rep. Barney Frank and Senate hopeful Tammy Baldwin)
11 p.m. Central
Alaska's three electoral votes will come in for Romney, but the party will be over.
Best-case scenario: Romney 235, Obama 313
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