After $6 billion in federal campaign spending, multiple lead changes in the presidential race and more trips to Ohio than a pack of road-tripping Wolverines, the end is near for President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Or is it?
If tonight’s election results are anything like two out of the past three presidential contests, it’s possible you will go to bed without knowing who the next commander in chief is. From the effects of superstorm Sandy to a rush of early voting and an electorate that’s more divided than ever, the vote tabulation could go on well beyond Tuesday night.
Or the whole thing could be over before “Letterman.” Either way, MTV News will keep you updated on the results and the stories from the ground in New York, Chicago and Boston all night on air and online.
The first results will come in shortly after 7 p.m. from six states, including crucial swing state Virginia (13 electoral votes), which could be an early indication of which way the vote is going. A half-hour later, polls will close in three states, highlighted by the one that could decide it all: Ohio (18).
8 p.m.: Results come in from 16 states, including hotly contested Florida (29) and New Hampshire (4).
9 p.m.: One of the night’s biggest hauls, 14 states close their polls, including crucial Wisconsin (10) and Colorado (9). Minnesota and Michigan also wind things down, two states that were formerly in the Obama column, but which got some serious attention from Republicans down the stretch.
10 p.m.: The last of the battleground states close, including Iowa (6) and Nevada (6).
11 p.m.: By the time polls close in these five Western states we could have a pretty solid sense of how the night is going to go. Obama is all but assured 78 electoral votes from California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. The final results may come in after 1 a.m., when polls close in Alaska (3).
The Long and Winding Road
Thanks to new voter ID laws in Virginia, the usually fast vote count in that state could hinge on an unknown amount of provisional ballots in the state. Similarly, in Ohio, a close count could push off a final tally for two weeks, when the expected 2 to 3 percent of provisional ballots are counted. With so many factors in play, from absentee and early votes to Sandy, voting-machine irregularities and garden-variety election shenanigans, both Romney and Obama have lined up thousands of lawyers to keep an eye on things in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Virginia. If they notice or sense any irregularities, the vote counting could be questioned and go on for days, weeks or possibly months.
The Buckeyes Have It
No Republican has ever won the presidency without Ohio, and the state has gone with the winner in the past 11 elections. Without a win in Ohio — where some pollsters predict the margin could come down to 10,000 or fewer votes, Romney would have to win in just about every other swing state in order to get to the magic number.
High turnout is good news for Obama, but given the lower enthusiasm for the president than in 2008, Romney could gain an advantage if some of the last election’s disillusioned citizens stay home. While the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama still has a wide lead among young (18-29) voters , they are generally less interested than they were last time around.
Early voting could also play a huge role. As of Saturday, The Associated Press reported that 25 million people had cast early ballots in 34 states and Washington, D.C., with a larger number of those votes going Democrat than Republican.
With many voters in the areas affected by superstorm Sandy either without power or out of their homes and offline, it’s possible the storm could make voting less of a priority in typically blue New York and New Jersey. Authorities were setting up shuttle buses to take voters to the polls, and displaced Jersey residents were being allowed to vote by fax and email and sending authorized messengers to pick up mail-in ballots from those in shelters or out of their homes.
Stick with MTV News all Election Day for results, analysis and reports from Chicago, Boston and New York until a winner is declared. Share your voting stories by tweeting @MTVNews with the hashtags #GoVote or #IVoted!