How to Follow Ohio's Results

By tonight, we might know who's ahead, but not who's won

By Liam Carnahan,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 6, 2012 10:00 AM CST

(Newser) – All eyes are on the swing state of Ohio tonight, but when polls close at 7:30pm, there's a good chance we won't know anything for certain. For those following at home, here's what we'll know, when we'll know it, and what factors could make all the difference in the Buckeye state, courtesy of the Washington Post:

  • As early as 7:45pm, election boards should give us the early absentee and in-person tallies. Obama will likely have a significant lead here, judging by polls of early voters; he's in trouble if that's not the case.

  • Ballots cast today, however, are expected to lean toward Romney. Obama will need a good margin with early voters to stay ahead.
  • Provisional ballots are expected to make a big difference, and possibly slow down the count. By tonight or tomorrow morning, we'll know how many provisional ballots have been cast, but not their candidate-specific counts. Ohio law says these ballots can't be tallied until 10 days after the election.
  • However, provisional ballots are most often cast by low-income and "transient" voters, groups which are more likely to support Obama.
  • If it's really close, you could be biting your nails well into December, reports the New York Times. Litigation could slow things down for weeks, making Florida's 2000 recount look like a cakewalk.
  • Keep an eye on specific counties in the state. Obama will have to pull ahead big in urban areas like Columbus' Franklin County and Cleveland's Cuyahoga County, but also maintain the inroads he made in rural counties in 2008.

Voters enter the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland on the last day of early voting in Ohio Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. About 1.6 million people have voted early in Ohio.
Voters enter the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland on the last day of early voting in Ohio Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. About 1.6 million people have voted early in Ohio.   (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
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