In this election, Ohio may reign supreme. If President Obama is able to keep the state in his favor, the map will become infinitely harder for Mitt Romney to get to the decisive 270 electoral votes. And if Romney carries Ohio, his grasp on the electoral college will be much tighter.
But because of some quirks in Ohio’s voting laws and calendar, we might not know the winner for more than a week after the election if the race is very close.
The reason for this is two-fold.
The year, Ohio’s Secretary of State office decided not to wait for people to request absentee ballots and instead sent the applications to 6.9 million of the state’s 7.9 million registered voters. So far, more than 1.4 million voters have requested absentee ballots and more are expected to be received before the Nov. 3, deadline.
So far, 618,861 absentee ballots have been cast. That number will of course increase as election day nears, but more than 800,000 ballots are still at-large.
If voters have been sent an absentee ballot, but don’t return it by Nov. 5, they can still go to the polls and vote on election day, but they’ll be given a provisional ballot. And under state law, these ballots cannot be counted until Nov. 17.
In 2008, there were more than 200,000 provisional ballots to be counted.
The other reason for a potential delay in Ohio is a function of the calendar. Ohio’s absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 5, but they can arrive as late as Nov. 16 and still be counted. This means that votes will likely still continue to trickle in after Election Night, and if the results are very close, those ballots could also shift the outcome.