Election Drama Plays Out Into Wednesday, Possibly Later

As many predicted, Ohio is emerging as the new Florida.

Once again the presidential race is up in the air as Election Day turns into the day after.

This time around, though, Ohio is the new Florida, the state that determined the 2000 election.

Although some media outlets have projected George W. Bush as the winner of the Buckeye State, many refused, attempting to avoid a situation like four years ago, when they prematurely named a winner in Florida. Bush leads in Ohio by an estimated 130,000 votes, although votes are still being counted (in both the Republican-leaning Cincinnati and Dayton areas and in Democratic-leaning Cleveland) and John Kerry supporters believe there are an addition 150,000 provisional votes that have yet to be tallied.

 

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"We made a promise that in this election every vote would count and would be counted," Kerry's running mate, John Edwards, told Democrats gathered in Boston. "Tonight we are keeping our word and we will fight for every vote. You deserve no less. ... It's been a long night, but we waited for years for this victory — we can wait one more night."

It could be longer than one more night, however, as by law Ohio won't tally its provisional ballots for 11 days. Provisional ballots are used when a problem is encountered during the voting process, such as when a voter's name doesn't show up on the rolls at a polling place, or when a voter mistakenly attempts to vote in the wrong precinct. Adding to the mess is an Ohio law that requires a recount if the final margin is one-quarter of 1 percentage point or less (see "What Could Go Wrong? Electoral College Ties And Swing-State Recounts").

Both candidates spent a significant amount of time and money in Ohio, second only to Florida (see "Electoral College Strategies Put Cleveland In The Spotlight").

As of 3 a.m. on the East Coast, CBS News reports that Bush leads Kerry in Electoral College votes 249 to 242, with 270 needed to win. Along with Ohio, results are still too close to call in Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Nevada. (Iowa has said it will not name a winner until well into Wednesday.)

If Kerry wins Ohio, he will most likely win the election, as he is leading in the remaining states, all of which voted Democrat in 2000 except Nevada. If he loses Ohio but wins the remaining states, the election will end in a tie and the president would be named by the Republican-led House of Representatives, who would choose Bush.

So far only one state has swayed from the party it supported in 2000: New Hampshire, which went to Kerry.

CBS News projects Bush swept the South, including the much-watched swing state of Florida, where his brother Jeb is governor. Bush also took Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, North and South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, and his own home state of Texas, as well as Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Montana, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Alaska and Vice President Dick Cheney's home state of Wyoming.

Not surprisingly, CBS News projects John Kerry has taken the Northeastern states: New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Vermont and his home state of Massachusetts. He's also the projected winner of California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

If Bush does win, he will do it with a victory in the popular vote, which he lost in 2000. With 90 percent of precincts reporting nationwide, Bush was polling 51 percent to Kerry's 48 percent.

Voter turnout is reportedly running higher than four years ago, and in a number of states polls remained open later than usual to accommodate the large number of voters lining up to cast their ballots.

As expected, young voters 18 to 29 appear to have made significant impact in some states. According to CNN exit polls, one out of five voters in the swing states Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin were under the age of 30, the same percentage of the electorate as the much-prized voters over the age of 60.

"In critical states in this election, we see evidence that aggressive efforts to reach voters directly had a major impact on a new generation," Ivan Frishberg, communications director for the New Voters Project, said in a statement. "Regardless of who wins the Electoral College or the popular vote, democracy fueled by young voters is pulling ahead as one of the winners in this election."

As for the congressional races, CBS News projects Republicans will retain their grip on both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

One Democrat who did earn a spot in the Senate was Illinois native Barack Obama, who replaced a Republican and will be the only black senator in the 100-member legislative body. After his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Obama has been considered a rising star of the party ("Who Is Barack Obama?").

Tuesday's elections also included several notable ballot measures in various states, gay marriage chief among them. According to projections, 10 of the 11 states considering constitutional amendments to limit marriage to heterosexual couples approved the measures, a major defeat for the gay and lesbian community, which six months ago won the right to marry in Massachusetts. Results in the 11th state, Oregon, have yet to be projected.

In another closely watched measure, Californians voted to spend $3 billion on stem cell research, an issue Arnold Schwarzenegger supported even though it put him slightly at odds with the Bush administration. Michael J. Fox and the late Christopher Reeve were strong supporters of the measure, while Mel Gibson was strongly against it.

Projected returns also showed Arizonans approved a measure aimed at deterring illegal immigrants from voting or obtaining certain government services, while Montana residents voted to become the 10th state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Elsewhere, Florida voters approved a $1-an-hour raise in the state minimum wage (to $6.15) and Oklahoma voters approved a state lottery, leaving only nine states without one.

This story was updated on November 3 at 3:54 a.m. ET