A scenario for a no-decision on Nov. 6

So if we believe the hype, the outcome in presidential election will turn on Ohio, and Ohio will be very close.

According to the Cincinnati Inquirer, Ohio mailed out applications for absentee ballots to all of the nearly seven million registered voters in the state. Of those who applied for an absentee ballot, about 800,000 are still out. Many of those 800,000 absentee ballots will still arrive on time to be counted. Of course, we don’t know how many. Some of those who received those absentee ballots will simply not vote. That’s not a problem.

Some of those who asked for and received absentee ballots will not fill them out but will turn up at the polling places to vote on Nov. 6. That’s also legal. But, by law, the state has to set those ballots aside on Election Day and treat them as “provisional ballots,” until it can confirm that the same people hadn’t already voted by absentee ballot.

By Ohio law, provisional ballots cannot be counted before Nov. 17. By now, you’ve figured out the scenario but I’ll just make explicit. If the number of provisional ballots in Ohio is larger than the margin of victory in Ohio, and if Ohio’s 18 electoral votes will determine the outcome of the election, we won’t have a result until at least Nov. 17.

This post was updated to clarify the numbers. To further clarify, Ohio’s secretary of state sent absentee ballot applications to all Ohio registered voters. Only a portion of those applications were returned and those who returned them received absentee ballots. A portion of those absentee ballots have been received. 800,000 is roughly the number ballots that were sent out, minus the number that have already been mailed back in. 

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/25/2012 - 10:56 am.

    Have no doubt that there will aggressive challenging of any vote result. If history can be a guide, any close win by Obama would be challenged in every possible court and forum, through any possible portion of election law and voter elegilbiity.

    2000 showed that loud voices, much shoving, and a complaisant Supreme Court can install a loser.

  2. Submitted by Tim Walker on 10/25/2012 - 12:07 pm.

    I don’t believe the *hype*

    But I believe the cogent analyses by Nate Silver at 538.

  3. Submitted by Wm. Sweeney on 10/25/2012 - 11:50 pm.

    The real no decision

    The unexpected can always happen. But based on the information available today the U.S. will wind up with a divided Congress and a President elected by an extremely thin popular vote margin (and perhaps without a popular vote majority). The likelihood of legal action by one (or both) political parties contesting the voting process is high, and as Mr. Black suggests, the possibility of a delayed decision in the Presidential election exists.

    Regardless of the variables, the gridlock scenario will not change — the gerrymandered voices in the House will remain shrill and unbending and the archaic rules of the Senate will stand as a roadblock to action.

  4. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 10/26/2012 - 09:40 pm.

    It Won’t Take that Long

    What happens in these situations is that the Democratic candidate folds his tent and goes home, despite wide spread reports of Republican shenanigans.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/28/2012 - 09:11 am.


    those days are over.
    Obama -really- doesn’t like to lose
    (see the second debate).

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