Why We Might Not Have a Presidential Winner on Election Night
Two presidential campaigns are underway: One to win on Election Day, the other to win after it.
President Obama and Mitt Romney are each preparing for recounts, confusion over voter-eligibility rules, and even the chance of a tie in the Electoral College. A close election, as this one will almost certainly be, means all three scenarios are on the table.
In 2000, it took until Dec. 12 for lawyers and courts to settle on a White House winner. Here are three ways this year’s presidential battle could last long past Nov. 6:
Florida’s infamous 2000 presidential recount is the first thing that comes to mind when talk turns to a possible recount. And election experts in the Sunshine State want people to know things have changed in the last 12 years.
The state’s recount rules are now far more clear and explicit, and less vulnerable to charges of political maneuvering. Instead of recounting individual counties, recounts are now conducted statewide in cases of a winner beating an opponent by half of a percentage point or less. The trigger is automatic.
All voting booths also now use paper ballots, eliminating the possibility of the infamous “hanging chad” that plagued the contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
“We’ve got 12 years of successful elections under our belt in Florida since we were in the spotlight,” said Stephen Rosenthal, Obama’s general counsel in the state.
This time around, observers looking for a drawn-out election should focus on the Buckeye State. Ohio orders a recount if the margin between the top two candidates is within one-fourth of a percentage point of the total votes cast.
But such a recount would begin only after the election results are certified in each individual county — and the deadline for that is 21 days after Nov. 6. The secretary of state would then need to certify the results, which a spokesman indicated would take a few additional days. In other words, it could take until December before a recount in Ohio even begins.
Candidates can also request a recount in Ohio, either for the entire state or individual precincts.
Though Republicans pushed to tighten voting requirements in an array of states the last two years, few of their proposals passed or survived legal challenges. That’s left the voting landscape largely unchanged from four years ago. ...