It could takes weeks for Americans to find out who is their next President of the United States if former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney wins - but only hours if he loses to President Barack Obama due to voting irregularities in the battleground states of Florida and Ohio.
As the 2012 Presidential Election unfolds on Election Day with the closing of the polls on the U.S. East Coast, Mitt Romney must first take Virginia or Pennsylvania in order to stay competitive in the Electoral College race. The U.S. Presidential election results of Virginia and Pennsylvania could be known before 10 p.m. Eastern Stand Time - even before the polls close on the U.S. West Coast.
Romney and Obama are in a statistical tie in Virginia at 47.7% to 48%, respectively, in the most recent Real Clear Politics average of polls. Obama had enjoyed a comfortable lead in Pennsylvania, but recent polling trends indicate a narrowing of the race in that state and recent polls may not reflect the last-minute campaign rounds of both candidates in Pennsylvania during the last week of the election.
If Obama wins both Virginia and Pennsylvania, combined with Electoral College Votes from states leaning Obama, he would reach the 270 Electoral College Votes needed to win the Presidency without having to win the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Colorado, or Iowa. The result of the U.S. election could then be known before 10 p.m. EST.
If Romney wins Virginia or Pennsylvania, then the Election night continues with Florida and Ohio determining the outcome of the race. Romney must win both Florida and Ohio to stay competitive while Obama only needs to win one of those states to pass the 270 Electoral College mark.
Florida's votes will not be entirely counted until after 8 p.m. EST because the Florida panhandle lies within the Central Time Zone. If there is a clear victory for Obama in either Ohio or Florida, the result of the U.S. election could then be known before 11 p.m. EST.
If however, Romney wins in either of the battleground states of Iowa or Colorado, and the race is too close to call in either Ohio or Florida, both campaigns are poised to litigate over voting irregularities for each crucial vote which could take several weeks of fast-tracked litigation to determine the outcome of the Presidency just like in 2000.
The uphill battle Romney must climb in the Electoral College is reflected in recent Intrade odds which give Obama a 2 to 1 advantage over Romney winning the White House.