(Cleveland) - If you are waiting for the presidential race to be officially decided on the night of Election Day, it won't be. It never is.
Ballots are quickly counted on Election Day night all across the country, and the numbers are reported. However, every state has an official canvass of all ballots, and it is that count which will be used in each state to determine who will represent that state in the meeting of the Electoral College in December. Ohio's canvass will be due November 28. All ballots will be re-counted in each county, and those numbers go to the Secretary of State. Those numbers will be used to determine whose delegates will be chosen for the meeting of the Electoral College in December. It's the Electoral College that makes the final, and official vote for president.
When the TV networks and The Associated Press announce on Election Day night that a state has been won by one candidate or another, it's based on statistics. A state is "called" when it's believed that the candidate who is behind can't catch up, based on the numbers of votes yet to be counted, along with exit polling information. Exit polling is when people in key precincts are asked after leaving a polling place for whom they voted. Those key precincts are chosen based on their past performance in voting. Exit polls are also used to report on why people voted the way they did.
If the vote's a runaway, either in early results, or in exit polling, then a race is called. Again, though, it's all unofficial.
Another thing about ballot counting. Every state does it differently when it comes to absentee and early ballots. In Ohio, if a ballot is already in-house at the county Board of Elections, it can be counted on Election Day. However, the results aren't tallied until the polls close. Those are the first results you'll get. Ballots cast on Election Day have to be physically transported to the Board of Elections from polling places. Those aren't counted until the paper ballots or hard drives arrive at the BOE. It's a far cry from the days when people voted on voting machines, and at the end of the day, the machines were opened, and the counting tallies were read off from each machine.
Remember also that every state has different guidelines when it comes to mailed-in ballots. In Ohio, they must be postmarked by the day before Election Day, but they don't have to arrive until 10 days after an election. Those ballots could swing a very close election.
Many experts are predicting a long night, so settle in, and wait for the results.
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