It’s Election Day, and the Race Is (Somewhat) Too Close to Call

With national polls showing an exceptionally close race, voter turnout is key in the battleground states.

The phrase “seemingly endless campaign cycle” is often used to describe the months and years leading up to a presidential election, highlighting the intense weariness most people feel after overexposure to the candidates and their talking points. Yet 2012 was an especially congested campaign year, with total spending by both sides adding up to more than $1.6 billion.

But today, it all ends… at least most of us hope it does. With such a phenomenally close race nationally, many are beginning to assume that a repeat of 2000 is all but inevitable, with squabbles over early voting in Ohio and Florida having already taken place. However, a quick glance at the swing-state polls gives reason to doubt such a terrifying prospect.

While the national numbers show the race pretty much even, at the end of the day, the popular vote does not determine who will occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Electoral College, a system that more and more people are beginning to view as outdated, still decides our presidential elections. And in this category, President Obama has a slight but palpable edge.

This is not to say that GOP challenger Mitt Romney cannot win—far from it. Yet looking at Ohio, the state many consider to be the most crucial battleground, the president has held on to anywhere from a two- to five-point lead over the past month, even after his sub-par debate performance on Oct. 3 in Denver.

In order to win this state, Republicans have to mobilize a fierce, almost unprecedented get-out-the-vote effort before polls close at 7 p.m. And if Romney manages to win Ohio, he will then likely also have to win states like Virginia and Colorado in order to secure the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. Obama, on the other hand, will likely be able to reach the tipping point of victory simply by winning the Buckeye State.

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, communities in New York and New Jersey are still reeling from the impact of Hurricane Sandy. As of yesterday afternoon, election officials in the Empire State indicated that there may be an extra day of voting in several counties if turnout falls below 25 percent. If such becomes necessary, the extra voting day would take place within 20 days.

Additionally, New Jersey is also giving leverage to those displaced by the storm, allowing e-mail and fax voting for the first time in the state’s history. Technically, these residents will be categorized as “overseas voters,” which allows them to cast their ballots remotely under the law. These electronic ballots must be submitted by no later than 8 p.m.

While it is yet too soon to tell the ultimate effects Hurricane Sandy will have on the final tally, Domenico Montanaro of NBC News estimates that Obama could lose as many as 340,000 votes as a result of the storm. Since New York and New Jersey are traditionally blue states and will likely go for the president regardless, such increases the likelihood of the dreaded Electoral College/popular vote split—in which one candidate wins the presidency by reaching 270 in the Electoral College while losing the overall national vote.

Obviously, the consequences of who ultimately emerges victorious tonight, tomorrow or next month cannot be overstated, as the country truly appears to be at a crossroads. Will the people choose to embrace the government’s role in supplementing and stabilizing the economy, or will a purist free-market approach prevail?

Time will tell, but in the meantime: Get out and vote!

Images courtesy of Business Insider and RealClearPolitics