CINCINNATI— With the two presidential candidates divided in Ohio by less than 100,000 votes much of Election Night, complications in the way the state counts absentee and provisional ballots could leave Ohio's 18 electoral votes in question until mid-November or later.
But election observers had earlier pointed out that the initial vote results—that of early and absentee ballots—could make Obama appear to be leading in the state. According to surveys, Ohio’s early voters tended to be Democrats.
On Monday, Ohio’s top election official, Secretary of State Jon Husted, announced an initial tally for Ohio’s early votes: 1.8 million. Early voting in Ohio was high because this year, for the first time, the state mailed absentee ballot applications to the vast majority of registered voters. More than 1.3 million voters subsequently requested an absentee ballot, and as of Nov. 5, about 1.1 million had received, filled out, and returned them. (About 600,000 more voted early, in person.)
But the difference between these two absentee ballot totals—roughly 200,000 ballots—could prove problematic if Tuesday’s election tally here ends up evenly divided between Romney and Obama. Each Ohioan who received an absentee ballot and didn’t mail it in but still went to vote at a polling place today was required to fill in a “provisional” ballot. Under Ohio election rules, provisional ballots—which give officials time check the legal status of a vote—can’t be counted for 10 days after an election. That means if either candidate leads Ohio by only a few thousand votes on Wednesday morning, the state’s electoral votes could remain undecided for at least another 10 days. That scenario, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell told Newsmax, could turn the election results into a “nightmare” here.
As of Tuesday night, Husted said there was no count on the number of provisional ballots cast in the state.