As polling stations start to close, a slew of data will begin rolling in, just waiting to be analyzed. (Full, updated election results from the Post here)

Some data will come in the form of exit polls that, while helpful, can sometimes be misleading. Ezra Klein warns readers of the dangers of heavily relying on exit poll data during elections:

Reporting a presidential election is a big challenge for television networks. They have have huge interest in a news event – but not much information to share.

Enter, the exit polls: Early surveys administered at about 1,000 polling locations across the country. At their best, exit polls give election junkies an early sense of how the American electorate is leaning. At their worst, their data can be incomplete and misleading. Early exit polls don’t always capture the full picture of who is voting; supposed “leaks” are often inaccurate. 

“It’s an interesting contest of peek-a-boo,” says Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll. “The only people who have access are the paying clients. Everybody else can only see what those clients leak out or report. It’s a bit of a game in that sense, depending on what comes out, like reading tea leaves when the Vatican is choosing a new pope.”

It’s hard to divine when polls will prove accurate – and when they’ll lead election watchers astray. Pollsters do, however, have a few tips on how to make the most of election polls. 

1. The first rule of exit polls is this: Before 5 p.m., there are no exit polls.That’s when the “quarantine” lifts on the exit poll data, collected by interviewers stationed at polling places across the country, that major television networks use to project outcomes...

2. Take early exit polling results with a “giant grain of salt.” That quote comes from Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, which runs polls for many Democratic clients.

“We saw in 2004 that early results were wrong and saw that even as recently as the Wisconsin recall,” he says. “I know its hard for people not to just want to eat every piece of information. A lot of time though, watching the first wave you’re going to get burned.”

Rosen adds that there “are definitely patterns of whose supporters will vote at different times of day,” which they’ve observed during their decade running national exit polls. That means “You’re seeing partial data if you see data that you suspect was leaked during the day,” he adds. ...

The Washington Post will be helping readers keep up and digest election results with a live interactive projections map. It provides election results, detailed demographic information, historic results by state, and electoral projections courtesy of The Fix.. Bethonie Butler wrote:

On Tuesday, the map will include live election results down to the county level along with a live dashboard of results from battleground states. The results map will focus on who is winning (and by how much), highlighting pivotal races and surprise wins. 

“We don’t want to throw all of that [demographic] data in on election night. It’s all about who wins,” [Interactive designer Wilson] Andrews said. “The next day is when you care about why that happened.”

In the hours after the election, the team will start to focus on a few interesting demographics as a custom view for the map. “That will get more to the heart of the story,” Andrews said.

Tumgoren said he and Bartz will monitor Associated Press results on Tuesday, as the Post has done in past election years. For some states, the Post will defer to the AP’s call. But calling battleground states will ultimately rely on analysis from the decision desk, run by Len Downie, a former executive editor of the Post.

Downie noted in an e-mail that he’s “played a role in election night decisions as national editor, managing editor and executive editor since 1984.” Downie will coordinate with the Post’s polling unit, social media team and a team of journalism students to make final calls for key races. ...

In addition to the modern tools being used to accurately call the election on Tuesday, Bartz had the idea to borrow at least one technology from the past — key people in the newsroom will communicate via walkie-talkies to ensure that no race is called prematurely.

If you want to follow the election results live on your own, then you’re in luck - The Fix’s Chris Cillizza breaks down what’s happening and when for the rest of the night in this hour-by-hour viewer guide:

Sunday’s paper featured a detailed breakdown of the key races in all 50 states.

But how to follow it all? Below, The Fix breaks down all of the major presidential states, ballot measures and House, Senate and governor races, hour (and half-hour) by hour, so you know what to expect and when. We’ve grouped the states below by when their polls close so you can follow the race(s) across the country as they happen.

In the meantime, make sure to check out our presidential, House, Senate and governor race ratings to get a sense of the state of play.


And if you just can’t wait for results, here are a few predictions compiled by Brad Plumer to hold you over:

Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight: Obama 332, Romney 203. This appears to be the most likely scenario in Silver’s model, which now gives Obama a 91 percent chance of winning and shows Florida as basically a tossup. “In order for Mr. Romney to win the Electoral College, a large number of polls, across these states and others, would have to be in error, perhaps because they overestimated Democratic turnout.,” Silver writes.

Intrade: Obama 303, Romney 235. The betting markets also give Obama a 70 percent chance of winning as of Tuesday morning. The main difference from Silver’s model is that Intrade gives Romney a fairly strong chance (65 percent) of winning Florida.

Washington Post’s Outlook contest: There are a slew of different predictions here. Chris Cillizza of the Fix predicts a narrow 277-261 Obama win. Andrew Beyer, our horse-racing columnist, predicts a 284-254 Romney win. And Jason Samenow of the excellent Capital Weather Gang predicts a 281-257 Obama victory.

Sam Wang, Princeton Election Consortium: Obama 303, Romney 235. “In terms of EV or the Meta-margin, [Obama has] made up just about half the ground he ceded to Romney after Debate #1.”