A sign points to the entrance of a voting location during the U.S. presidential election in Olmsted Falls, Ohio Tuesday on Election Day. (Photo : Reuters)
As all eyes shift to Ohio today in the 2012 presidential election, the Buckeye State is bracing itself for a possible recount in the event of a close voter tally-a process that could take the election into next month.
Ohio has been the top contested of the swing states between President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney, with its 18 Electoral votes putting whoever wins it in solid position to win the White House.
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Should Obama win the state, most scenarios would project him to need only one or two more swing states to secure reelection. For Romney, the state is also as critical, as no Republican presidential candidate has ever won the White House without Ohio.
As the New York Times reported on Election Day Tuesday, Ohio officials are expecting roughly 5.7 million votes to be cast in the presidential election. If the margin is 14,250 votes or fewer, a statewide recount will take place. Under state law, the recount wouldn't start until Dec. 2 and would go no later than Dec. 11, six days before the state must qualify its representatives to the Electoral College.
Election officials and law experts are hoping for a result that is beyond legal challenge.
"We're expecting 200,000 or more provisional ballots - that's more than New York or California - and that means that an election is contestable here with a margin in the low tens of thousands of votes," Daniel P. Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University, told the New York Times.
Provisional ballots are used to record a vote when there are questions to a voter eligibility, including the lack of proper ID, the absence of a voter's name in the state's voter registry, a new address or a voter had requested an absentee ballot and turned up at the polls on Election Day.
With the Florida debacle of the 2000 Election not far from people's minds, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported it is likely that the Ohio process for counting provisional ballots could come under the magnifying glass of national attention, especially if Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted of Ohio ends up deciding which ballots get counted and which ones don't.
"That will get dicey," Edward Foley, director of Election Law @ Moritz, a program at the Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law told the Plain-Dealer. "That just shows a structural weakness in our system."
Last Friday, Husted put in place a new rule-which could affect 5,000 provisional Ohio ballots-that required voters to fill out a special form when casting a provisional ballot, the Plain-Dealer reported; without it and proper identification within 10 days of the election, voters' ballots will be rejected.
The Ohio Democratic Party, voting rights advocates, and other groups have asked a federal court to strike down Husted's rule, arguing that poll workers are responsible for checking if voter forms are filled out with identification information.
A hearing on the case is scheduled to take place in front of U.S. District Judge Algernon Marbley Wednesday.