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Professor Michael Towle’s Guide to Watching Election Returns for 2012

US flag- Michael Towle/Professor of Political Science
Mount St. Mary's University

With this high-profile election between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, no doubt many of us will be keeping a close eye on the results this year.  I have put together this election results-guide to help you wade through much of the election chatter and make sense of it all.

News networks use a number of techniques when they determine the winner of an election in each state. They conduct exit polls, watch specific precincts for results and they compare their expected results to what actually happens when the returns are reported. Generally speaking, the networks do not make their predictions based on the outcome of the election in a state until all the polls have closed in that state.

For this reason, I include here a guide to the poll closing times, given in EASTERN STANDARD TIME, according to when the LAST polls close in each state:

7:00 p.m. – FL, GA, IN, KY, NH, SC, VT, VA
7:30 p.m. – NC, OH, WV
8:00 p.m. – AL, CT, DC, DE, FL, IL, ME, MD, MA, MS, MO, NH, NJ, OK, PA, RI, TN
8:30 p.m. – AR
9:00 p.m. – AZ, CO, KS, LA, MI, MN, NE, NM, NY, ND, RI, SD, TX, WI, WY
10:00 p.m. – IA, MT, NV, UT
11:00 p.m. – CA, HI, ID, OR, WA
1:00 a.m. – AK

Here is how I see the evening progressing in three scenarios:

You can probably go to bed and forget about it if any of these scenarios emerge before 11 p.m.:

· Obama wins two of the following three: North Carolina, Florida or Virginia (Obama likely winner)
· Romney wins Pennsylvania and Florida and Virginia (Romney likely winner)
· Obama wins Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa (Obama likely winner)

All eyes are on Ohio if:

· Romney wins NH, FL, and VA. In that case, the winner of Ohio is probably the winner of the election.

Splash some water on your face and do a few pushups to wake up if Obama wins Pennsylvania and Virginia, while Romney wins Ohio, Florida and New Hampshire! Several possible scenarios emerge:

· If Obama wins Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin as expected, then the contest will come down to Colorado and Nevada. (Romney would likely then need both).
· If Obama loses Michigan, then Romney is the likely winner.
· If Obama wins Michigan and Minnesota, then he must win either Iowa OR Wisconsin plus both Colorado and Nevada.

How will each state vote? See my predictions.

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