Election results start coming in shortly after the polls close in a given state and can take anywhere between seconds to days to be announced depending on how close a race is. States and districts that are relatively "safe" for either party tend to be called immediately while swing states and districts can take longer.
Every major broadcast and cable news station have a team of professionals who review exit polls, polling data, and ballot returns that helps them determine when to call a district or state for a candidate. Once they are confident a race can be called for a candidate, they report it to the journalists in the television studio or newsroom and they report it to the general public.
While the Presidential election gets the majority of attention every four years, there are a slew of other state and federal elections happening at the same time. Every one of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives is on the ballot, along with 33 U.S. Senate seats, eleven governorships, and forty-four state house and/or senate seats.
Presidential Election Results Coverage
There are two main organizations that "call" Presidential elections in the United States - Reuters and The Associated Press.
Reuters has partnered with the National Election Pool, a group comprised of ABC News, CBS News, CNN and NBC News (along with MSNBC) to provide up-to-the-minute Presidential election exit polling and results for the entirety of the primary season through election night in November. Since each of these organizations are working together on this project they will likely be "calling" a specific state and the overall winner of the Presidential election at or around the same time.
The Associated Press has teamed up with Fox News to conduct their own exit polling and results in the Presidential election. Instead of heavily focusing on exit-polling, the AP and Fox News rely on a team of reporters in all fifty states who unleash a five-part strategy to receive and quickly deliver the results to national headquarters, who then report the results on air.
U.S. House and Senate Election Results Coverage
All 435 U.S. House Seats are up for grabs in 2020 as are 33 U.S. Senate seats. National media pays close attention to close House and Senate races in order to help viewers know which party will be in control of either chamber during the next Congressional session, but they don't always report extensively on every race, especially ones that are considered safe and not "up for grabs."
If you are interested in seeing how an individual House or Senate candidate fared then you most likely will want to visit Reuters.com or APnews.com on election night because they will both have interactive maps breaking down how each candidate did in every district and state.
State and Local Election Results Coverage
Eleven states are holding elections for governor and forty-four states are holding state House and/or Senate elections in 2020.
It can be a little more difficult to get up-to-the-minute results on state and local elections since the national media tends to focus on federal races, but every major newspaper, along with local outlets, reports state and local results on their websites. They will also report on U.S. House and Senate results in your state.