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When polls close on March 17 — and when we might get results

The first polling places close at 7 pm ET; in Arizona, the last polls will close at 10 pm ET.

Former Vice President Joe Biden at a campaign event in St. Louis, Missouri, on March 7, 2020.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Despite a wave of cancellations and postponements in response to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic — with everything from the NBA to Broadway on hold — three states are set to go forward with their presidential primaries as scheduled on Tuesday, March 17.

Voters in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois will all vote in what is expected to be another good day for former Vice President Joe Biden.

In Ohio, however, Gov. Mike DeWine announced late on Monday that in-person voting for the primary would not go forward as scheduled due to the coronavirus. According to Politico, the state is “supporting a lawsuit seeking to postpone in-person voting until June 2.”

But while some primary contests are delayed because of the pandemic, one thing is clear. At this point, there are just two candidates with a real shot at claiming the Democratic nomination for president: Biden and progressive rival Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is technically still in the race, despite having claimed only two delegates.)

About 450 delegates will be up for grabs, with Ohio’s election seemingly postponed. The March 17 primaries are still one of the biggest delegate hauls of the race; Florida is both the largest state voting Tuesday and the most Biden-friendly.

Here are the poll closing times, in Eastern time and local, listed alphabetically by state:

  • Arizona: 9/10 pm ET, 7 pm local (Arizona is in Mountain time, but only portions of the state observe daylight saving time, which means that much of the state is three hours off Eastern time right now)
  • Florida: 7/8 pm ET, 7 pm local (the Florida Panhandle is partially in Central time)
  • Illinois: 8 pm ET, 7 pm local

Some states could be called soon after polls close on primary night: In Florida, for example, Biden holds a hefty polling lead that could indicate a quick resolution to that race.

And none of the states to vote on March 17 rely heavily on mail-in voting, which delayed results in California and Washington earlier this month.

Biden’s margin of victory could make all the difference

While polling isn’t prophecy, all signs point to a sweep by Biden on Tuesday. He leads in the FiveThirtyEight state-level polling averages by 23.8 (Arizona), 41.2 (Florida), and 30 points (Illinois), and nothing from Sunday’s 11th Democratic debate would suggest that Sanders has been able to blunt the former vice president’s standing in the polls.

That means the key question for Sanders will be one of margins: Can he prevent Biden from claiming a mathematically insurmountable delegate lead in the primary?

Before Ohio’s postponement, Vox’s Andrew Prokop pointed out that March 17 might be a do-or-die moment for the Sanders campaign: It’s “the day where the delegate math for a Sanders comeback can change from implausible to near-impossible.”

If Sanders doesn’t exit after Tuesday, however, you can expect a partially coronavirus-induced lull in the Democratic primary going forward. Georgia postponed its March 24 primary until May. And the next major delegate-awarding day isn’t until April 28 (though there could still be a handful of primaries, including the symbolically significant Wisconsin, in the interim).

But first, both candidates will have to see how things unfold on Tuesday.

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