Peg Rosenfield has been monitoring elections for the League of Women Voters in Ohio for almost 40 years and has seen just about every voting glitch imaginable. She says there’s a saying among election workers: “Please, God, make it a landslide.” In a landslide, there is no quibbling over hanging chads or provisional ballots or registration requirements or rigged voting machines or whether ballots were cast by the dead. A winner is declared, a loser concedes — election over. No one expects a landslide when Americans go to the polls on Tuesday. As in 2000 and 2004, there is great potential for the race to be too close to call immediately in some states, and the possibility that the presidency will hang for days or weeks on a recount, or on the counting of provisional or late-arriving absentee ballots. It is possible the election won’t be decided at the polls alone, but, as in 2000, that it will determined in court — or in Congress.
“The best chance is that we end up with a winner declared on election day and then everything’s done,” said Rick Hasen, an election law specialist at the UC Irvine School of Law, but “there is no question that there will be some glitches on election day.” The question is how serious they are and whether they will decide the winner.
This much is known: The election will be subjected to unprecedented scrutiny by both campaigns, by a variety of partisan and nonpartisan monitors, and by thousands of lawyers prepared to go to court at the sight of the slightest irregularity.