A man places a sign letting people know where to line up for early voting at… (Al Behrman / Associated…)
CINCINNATI -- It’s almost Halloween, so it’s only natural to hear scary stories about scenarios that could lead to a tangled and nightmarish denouement in the presidential race.
What if the winner of the popular vote does not prevail in the Electoral College? What happens if we don’t know who won the race for weeks? Can we still take Thanksgiving off?
Plenty of political experts expect the outcome of the election will be known shortly after polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
But doubts lurk.
After all, the nation’s sense of balance and order was scarred by the craziness of the 2000 election, and its 537-vote Supreme Court-approved Florida recount victory for George W. Bush. Just thinking about that protracted process can give you butterflies in your ballot. Or bats in your belfry.
INTERACTIVE: Battleground states map
Today’s grim tale comes from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which outlines the potential for a delay in the outcome of the presidential race due to the large number of provisional ballots expected to be cast in this state.
Provisional ballots are given to voters whose eligibility is in question, reports the Plain Dealer’s Harlan Spector, due to address changes, improper identification or other discrepancies. Local election boards keep those ballots for 10 days while eligibility is determined.
In 2008, writes Spector, more than 200,000 provisional ballots were cast, and 40,000 were tossed out.
Here’s why that’s so scary: In 2008, 5.6 million Ohioans voted for president. Obama received 2.9 million votes. His Republican rival, Arizona Sen. John McCain, got 2.6 million votes. Obama’s margin of victory was 262,224 votes, or 4.6%. Those provisional ballots could have a big impact. This only matters if the election hinges on the great and powerful Ohio. As it definitely could.
Meanwhile, in southwestern Ohio, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Tuesday that some folks who have already voted have been spooked by phone calls letting them know their applications for absentee ballots are being processed, or urging them to get their absentee ballots in the mail by Nov. 6.
Seems that when an early voter arrives at a polling place, he or she simultaneously requests an absentee ballot and votes. Their names show up on lists of people who have requested absentee ballots, the Enquirer reported, allowing presidential candidates and the political parties to follow up with their voters to make sure they’ve voted. Unfortunately, the lists don’t note whether someone was an early voter.
PHOTOS: Hurricane Sandy
“What was most confusing me to me was getting something saying you’ve requested an absentee ballot after I had already voted,” one woman told the Enquirer.
With this season’s widespread fights over voter ID and early voting rules, many partisans are on high alert for anything that smacks of manipulation. But at least that story turned out to be not so scary after all.
Follow Politics Now on Twitter and Facebook