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West Virginia primary: what to expect and poll closing times

Citizens In Five States Vote In Primary Elections Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Voters in West Virginia and Republicans in Nebraska are heading to primaries today to vote in the Democratic and Republican primaries. Donald Trump might already be the presumptive Republican nominee, and Hillary Clinton's delegate lead over Bernie Sanders is looking increasingly insurmountable, but the voting is still going on.

Polls close in West Virginia at 7:30 pm Eastern time, and in Nebraska — where only Republicans are voting on a nomination that's already a fait accompli for Donald Trump — at 9 pm Eastern time. (That's 8 pm Central time in most of the state, and 7 pm in the westernmost counties in the Mountain time zone.)

What to expect in West Virginia's primary

West Virginia has 29 delegates to award proportionally to the winner of the Democratic primary. Sanders appears likely to win in West Virginia, and maybe win big. Although the state hasn't been polled as much as bigger states in the early primary, he's up by 6 percentage points in the two recent polls.

West Virginia is also very white, and Sanders has done best in states where black voters are a small share of the Democratic electorate. And the state allows independent voters to vote in primaries — a demographic that has strongly favored Sanders. The state has about 250,000 independent voters and just under 600,000 registered Democrats.

But even a big victory doesn't really matter to Sanders's chances of winning the nomination. He needs to win the remaining primaries by huge, unprecedented margins in order to catch up to Clinton's lead. As Vox's Matt Yglesias put it, Sanders is staying in the race because he can, not because he can win.

Republicans are voting in West Virginia too, and even if Trump hadn't already become the presumptive nominee, he'd be heavily favored to win there anyway.

Nebraska's Republican primary is too late to make a difference

Although Republican candidates who dropped out will remain on the ballot in Nebraska, Trump is the party's presumptive nominee by default. So while Nebraskans could, in theory, vote for Ted Cruz or John Kasich (or even Ben Carson), it won't make any difference.

Nebraska's primary is so late that the state hasn't voted in a contested primary election since 1968, and there are no polls on Nebraska Republicans' presidential preferences. So the election today matters mostly for state and local offices, and not for the presidency.