Nov. 3, 2004 | 7:30 p.m. ET
Winding down the Ticktock: For a while there it looked as if we had another Florida-style showdown on our hands. Sen. John Kerry would have been within his rights to insist on waiting until every ballot was counted before conceding — and in fact, his running mate, John Edwards, reportedly counseled him to do just that during a campaign huddle early this morning.

Every vote will still be counted, including the estimated 155,000 provisional ballots in Ohio that can't legally be tallied until 10 days from now. But with President Bush's Ohio margin currently standing at 136,000 or so, Kerry judged that there was no chance of seeing that state turn from Red to Blue.

Because of Kerry's concession, the anticlimactic vote count won't be accompanied by the bitter court battles or the media glare that was such a feature of the 2000 presidential election in Florida. That's a good thing. But some Ticktock readers are asking: Isn't there a better way to run an election?

Deborah in Mount Sterling, Ohio: "We all register to vote. Why didn't the Ohio Election Board have knowledge of the approximate voter turnout and have the proper amount of voting machines available in busy districts? Why were many Ohioians left to stand out in the cold and rain, wait in line for anywhere from three to six hours to cast a five-minute time limit vote in Franklin County, Ohio? How many potential voters could not endure this wait due to health or childcare, job demands and left without casting a vote? This should never have happened, and Ohio citizens deserve better."

Francine D. in New Jersey: "It is imperative that people know how difficult it was made for some of us to vote. I do not think it was an accident that Ohio had such long, long lines, problems with voting machines, etc. The most critical state with all these (calculated, in my opinion) mishaps? And if you listened all last night and into the morning, it was known well ahead of time that Ohio would be critical and could be (as it was) the deciding factor. So, no surprise, that voting there was made an arduous, time-consuming task. One can only imagine how many people gave up and went home or never went at all due to the long lines, etc. This can never happen again! The voting system has to be failproof and without question of its validity and no room for error or tampering. ..."

Stephen Gasche, Columbia Falls, Mont.: "Why is there not a federal law saying that any absentee ballot postmarked by the day before the election or earlier should be counted? As long as the vote was made before election day and the vote was turned over to a government agency (the U.S. Postal Service) with proper postage, I think the vote should be legal and counted. This is my two bits for any state legislators and senators who may read this or anyone feeling inclined to support this opinion."

Just as 2000's irregularities gave rise to the Help America Vote Act, and just as the electronic-voting mishaps reported over the past couple of years boosted support for voter-verifiable paper trails , this year's registration glitches should spark additional electoral reform. Personally, I'd like to see more standardization of voting processes, including the national voter database that everyone talks about but no one seems to be able to get created. I'd also favor taking partisanship out of the states' election machinery — a feature of American politics that seems scandalous to some observers abroad.

Other readers commented on the fallibility of exit polls and projections:

Justus H. Hendrickson IV, Lafayette, Indiana: "I think NBC and other networks that announce projected winners in a manner that could influence the election should be fined. Since there is very little actual journalism done by these networks these days, as they follow the corporate efficiency model of putting out a large volume of product while minimizing labor (real journalism can be expensive, after all), then the only thing that will get their attention appears to be financial penalties for bad or questionable work."

Paul Tyler, Rockhampton, Australia: "The MSNBC election coverage has been great — here in Australia, it's also big news. Looks like you guys over there are having a similar result to our National Election only last month, where Prime Minister John Howard was re-elected for a record fourth term, when on election day it was too close to call, and ended up being a massive win for Howard, a strong supporter of the Bush administration and coalition partner in Iraq."

Still others reflected on the "moral values factor" that many pundits are saying played a key role in the outcome. Here are a couple of the more interesting responses:

Alice Byenkya, Kampala, Uganda: "I am a Ugandan, born-again Christian. Jesus says when you pray in my name, just believe that you have received. I prayed for Bush's victory and I already thank the Lord for it, because I prayed in the Name of Jesus Christ. Some of these things which tend to be go beyond some levels, we resort to prayer."

Regina McCarthy, Franklin Park, Pa.: "Could MSNBC and all its guest pundits please stop reporting that those with values voted for Bush. I have strong values. I value truth, fairness, equal opportunity, inclusion, access to the American Dream for everyone. I value the health of our planet and its resources. These are American values, or at least have been in my lifetime. Please stop inferring that my vote for Kerry was a valueless vote! It was a value-laden vote."

So what lies ahead? The tally of tens of thousands of absentee ballots is continuing at a furious pace in Florida, with results to be announced by Thursday (that's the legal deadline). And then there are those provisional ballots. For updates on these loose ends from the 2004 elections, check our Politics front page.

Depending on how things develop over the next couple of weeks, this Ticktock may be updated further. But I'll be spending the bulk of my blogging time over at my regular gig, Watch a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse online. I hope you'll join me there.

Postscript for Nov. 5: Iowa, which was the first player in this year's political drama by virtue of its January party caucuses, was the last state to be called in the 2004 election. The Hawkeye State went to President Bush — just as New Mexico did earlier. Kerry, meanwhile, laid claim to Wisconsin and New Hampshire. That makes the final electoral vote count 286 for Bush, 252 for Kerry, as projected by NBC News and most other media outlets. For comparison's sake, the tally in 2000 was 271 for Bush and 266 for Al Gore, with one abstention.

Nov. 3, 2004 | 4:35 p.m. ET
Filling in the gaps: The dust has largely settled from Election Day, but not completely. There are still a few empty spaces on the electoral map.

  1. Other political news of note
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      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California

For posterity's sake, let the record show that NBC News added Nevada to President Bush's column at 11:34 a.m. ET and declared him the projected winner at that time. That was about a half-hour after it became known that Sen. John Kerry had called the White House to concede.

NBC News declared Kerry the projected winner in Minnesota (4:38 a.m. ET) and Michigan (5:30 a.m. ET), bringing his electoral vote count to 238. Bush's total stands at 274, putting him over the required 270-vote mark, with New Mexico, Iowa, Wisconsin and New Hampshire yet to be called.

In the days ahead, you'll probably hear lots of debate over the leaking of early exit-poll numbers that leaned toward Kerry, as well as the policies governing network projections. Keep a watch on Romenesko's media blog for informed commentary.

Here are other NBC projections: Republican Mel Martinez wins Florida Senate seat (1:41 p.m. ET), Republican incumbent Jim Bunning wins Kentucky Senate seat (1:42 p.m.), Republican David Vitter wins Louisiana Senate seat (1:42 p.m.), Republican John Thune unseats Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota (1:42 p.m.), Democrat Brian Schweitzer wins Montana governor's race (1:44 p.m.), Democrat John Lynch wins New Hampshire goveronor's race (1:44 p.m.), California three-strikes initiative and Alaska marijuana initiative both strike out (1:47 p.m.).

Learn more about how NBC News projects election winners, and get the whole story about the presidential race , the balance of power in the Senate and the House , the nation's governors and gay-marriage bans .

Nov. 3, 2004 | 3:31 p.m. ET
Bush's victory address: President Bush thanked his family and supporters — and reached out to those who voted against him — during a speech at Washington's Reagan Building.

In a 3 p.m. rally at the end of his "last campaign," Bush told the cheering crowd that he'll move forward on his economic and social agenda, but the emphasis of his speech fell more heavily on battles abroad, the campaign's key controversy.

"Our military has brought justice to the enemy and honor to America," he said.

He said his agenda will include strengthening the "emerging democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan" so they can defend themselves, "and then our servicemen and women will come home with the honor they have earned.”

Bush also offered an olive branch to Sen. John Kerry and his supporters: “To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support, and I will work to earn it."

Will Bush and his Republican colleagues be uniters rather than dividers? On MSNBC, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff worried that an upsurge in fighting in Iraq could ruin the mood. "That's going to be pretty powerful stuff over the next couple of weeks," Isikoff said after the speech.

But today at least, political reconciliation was Bush's theme: "A campaign has ended, and the United States of America goes forward with confidence and faith … I am eager for the work ahead." Watch the full speech over the Web.

Nov. 3, 2004 | Updated 2:55 p.m. ET
Kerry speaks: In Boston's Faneuil Hall, Sen. John Kerry delivered his concession speech. He started out by thanking the crowd, campaign workers, voters and even the Vietnam veterans who supported him on the trail — "this great band of brothers who criss-crossed this country on my behalf."

"Don't lose faith," he told the crowd. "What you did made a difference. And building on itself, we go on to make a difference another day. I promise you that time will come ... the election will come, when your work and your ballots will change the world. ..."

"I will never stop fighting for you," he declared. Watch the full speech over the Web.

The proceedings, which began just before 2 p.m., were watched on a big screen back at Washington's Reagan Building, where a similarly large crowd will witness President Bush's victory speech in the next hour.

Nov. 3, 2004 | 12:30 p.m. ET
Bush wins: After a long, long night, Sen. John Kerry decided against contesting the vote in Ohio and phoned Bush to concede. So, after one of the most expensive and bitterly contested races on record, Bush has emerged as the victor.

Reports about the concession broke on the wires at about 11 a.m. ET.

While Bush is staying in the White House, Sen. Tom Daschle is not returning to the Senate. After a 26-year congressional career, the Democratic leader was defeated by Republican opponent John Thune.

What does this all mean going forward? NBC News' Washington bureau chief and host of "Meet the Press" says the 2008 race has just begun .

Nov. 3, 2004 | 4 a.m. ET
Good night, good morning: There are plenty of political races yet to be decided on this longest night. But the pundits and the politicos are starting to fade away, and I'm starting to fade as well.

It's clear that this election, like the one four years ago, will not be decided to everyone's satisfaction in a single night — no matter what the network projections say. I have to go home, unwind for a bit, then wind up the clock again for another day of Election Ticktock. In the meantime, you can keep yourself posted on developments by checking our main story on Election Day's aftermath as well as our Politics front page.

Looking on the bright side, political observers and voters alike voiced amazement at the seemingly high turnout for this Election Day, at how smoothly the voting went in most areas, and at how tenacious voters were when things didn’t go smoothly.

We've focused quite a bit on the mechanics of the voting process, and how things went wrong. But Doug Chapin, director of ElectionLine.org, provided some big-picture perspective earlier in the day: Reviewing the setbacks, Chapin observed, "There are no bigs, only littles." He said many of the reports could be seen "as a result of increased sensitivity to problems, not the problems themselves."

Throughout the day, many Ticktock readers wrote to express their thanks to poll workers and reflect on the bright side of the voting experience. Now that we're in the thick of the electoral endgame, consider this sampling of comments drawn from the more than 1,000 e-mail messages that have been sent in over the past 30 hours or so.

Freya, Oakland, Calif.: "I was first to vote in my precinct in Oakland. As the first voter I was invited to inspect all the touch-screen voting machines and look at the readouts that showed zero votes for each candidate and issue on the ballot. So I did. They were like long cash-register tapes that, at that point, were still attached to the machines. The local poll workers had signed and countersigned each tape. I felt pretty cool about being asked to do this. It made me feel that there was a great deal of concern about keeping the voting process transparent. ..."

Ruchira Bajaj, Naperville, Ill.: “The voting experience was rather strange for me.  This is the first time I was voting, and as I was going into the polling booth I was rather nervous.  I was expecting something to go wrong.  I had checked online all the directions and all the documentation I would need, but still I was nervous.  I had made my decision a long time back, but as it was the final time to vote ... I felt that I had so much power.  One wrong circle and it could change the life of so many people.  I do not mean that this is true, but still it was a great feeling.  I felt so patriotic, and felt all the sense of nationality and everything in just one second. It was worse than taking a final exam.”

Juan Herrera, Miami: “I am so amazed at the vast number of people who took this election seriously. It seems all the campaign efforts to have people come out and vote had an effect. Today, I feel proud to be an American.”

Cheryl: “The voter turnout today is wonderful.  It shows that Americans really appreciate what we have in the opportunity to choose our leaders; and that many young people are realizing it is a privilege not to be taken for granted in the world today! Thank you to the soldiers now and in past generations that have given us this right and protected it with the ultimate sacrifice. Yes, my son is a soldier — as was his father and his grandfathers before him!”

John F. Baggett, Lakewood, Colo.: “An upbeat line of voters waited about an hour and a half to vote at the Lakewood polling place where I vote.  I thought the demographic was most interesting, with business-suited white-collar types talking and laughing with tattooed and highly pierced eclectic types.  Parents with children in tow, along with elderly retirees all determined to vote despite the 25-degree temperatures.  My favorite quote on this day, by Winston Churchill: ‘The worst form of government in the world is democracy ... except for all the others’!  God bless this experiment!  God bless America!”

Jim Oskola, Neenah, Wis.: “After voting (I waited 30 minutes, no big deal), I heard the most wonderful comment from a father to his young daughter on the way out of the polling place. The daughter was worried that she would be late for school, and the dad said, ‘This is part of your education, too.’”

Nov. 3, 2004 | 3:30 a.m. ET
Your views on the election projection: Ticktock readers are chiming in on the controversy over whether Ohio will end up in President Bush's column or Sen. John Kerry's. Here's a selection of the latest e-mail:

Lucas Buck: "It is bad luck to celebrate a victory when the count is not done. Everyone should sit and wait until the final count comes in from Ohio in about 11 or 12 days. Wasn't there a saying that 'All good comes to those who wait'??"

Susan Boyle, Toledo, Ohio: "I wish the Democrats would quit their whining during these elections. They are treating us in Ohio as they did in Florida in 2000. It is very unbecoming."

Colleen, Battle Creek, Mich: "Hey Chris Matthews, sit up straight! you look like you're leaning a little to the right. I love MSNBC, but it doesn't need to be in such a hurry to project the winner in Ohio. Remember, it's not a race to be first to report the results if you end up being wrong tomorrow. Sound familiar?? ... Didn't you guys learn anything from 2000? Take Ohio off the board until the provsional ballots have been counted."

Lisa Rivera, Cambridge, Mass: "I can't believe this! On one page you say that you are not going to say someone 'won' until it is a sure thing. On another page you are saying Bush won Ohio! Not a single other news source of this writing has stated this and you are all using the same source. This is an outrage. You are claiming Bush has won when the election is far from over. This is shocking. Why is MSNBC doing this? Is it really so crucial to 'call it' early when you are interfering with the democratic process?"

As the night wore on, NBC News stuck to its projection on Ohio, but anchor Tom Brokaw and other commentators also spun scenarios that left Ohio out of the calculations.

Meanwhile, NBC News announced another round of projections at 3 a.m. ET. Republican Matt Blunt is the projected winner for Missouri governor. Approval was projected for Oregon's gay marriage ban. Oregon's marijuana initiative and Maine's tax-cap initiative were projected to go down to defeat. California's three-strikes initiative and Alaska's marijuana initiative were judged too close to call.

Learn more about how NBC News projects election winners, and get the whole story about the presidential race , the balance of power in the Senate and the House , the nation's governors and gay-marriage bans .

Nov. 3, 2004 | 2:32 a.m. ET
Hawaii for Kerry: NBC News says Sen. John Kerry is the projected winner in Hawaii, giving him 211 electoral votes. President Bush is projected to receive 269 electoral votes. It takes 270 votes to win in the Electoral College, and a 269-269 vote would send the election to the House.

Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards told a Boston rally that he and Kerry would "fight for every vote."

"It's been a long night, but we've waited four years for this victory — we can wait one more night," Edwards said.

NBC News' David Gregory quoted a senior Bush campaign official as saying the Democrats were "delusional" for continuing the ballot struggle. "The Kerry campaign simply cannot accept reality," Gregory quoted the official as saying.

Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell provided a new estimate of the number of provisional ballots outstanding: 175,000.

Meanwhile, Iowa election officials said the breakdown of a ballot-counting machine in Green County would force a delay in tallying an estimated 7,500 votes there. NBC News still judges the Iowa presidential vote too close to call.

Time stamps reflect the time that NBC News made its call rather than the precise time of posting. Electoral vote tallies are based merely on projections and should not be considered conclusive. Learn more about how NBC News projects election winners, and get the whole story about the presidential race .

Nov. 3, 2004 | Updated 2:10 a.m. ET
Democrats keep hope alive: The Kerry campaign insists that Ohio is still in play , despite NBC's projection that President Bush will be the winner. As Ohio election officials continue counting absentee ballots and provisional ballots, the prospects for a Florida-style controversy could be looming larger.

Election projections are based on an assessment of exit polls and partial returns — but they're not infallible, as demonstrated during the aftermath of the 2000 presidential elections. Thus, the Democrats can still pin their hopes on the provisional ballots, which were issued to voters whose names didn't show up on the registration rolls or who couldn't provide sufficient identification.

In accordance with state law, the provisional-ballot count won't begin until 11 days after the election, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell said. He said there could well be 250,000 such ballots, "as the Democrats say."

In any case, Kerry and his team are unlikely to give the slightest hint of a concession this early into the electoral endgame. Fox News preceded NBC News in putting Ohio into Bush's column, but as of 2:10 a.m., other major networks and newspapers did not follow suit. Even on MSNBC, some commentators began to question the call.

However, analysts at NBC News' decision desk explained that their decision was based in part on the observation that many of the ballots yet to be counted were reportedly coming from Republican-leaning areas around Cincinnati and Warren County.

Meanwhile, NBC News issued a set of projections for ballot initiatives at 1:16 a.m. All six of the listed initiatives were projected to pass.

Those include the California stem-cell initiative , Montana's medical-marijuana initiative, Arizona's immigration initiative and gay marriage bans in Utah, Montana and Michigan.

Nov. 3, 2004 | 1 a.m. ET
Bush (effectively) wins: NBC declared President Bush the projected winner in Ohio (12:58 a.m. ET) and in Alaska, where the nation's final poll closing time has passed. That gives Bush 269 electoral votes, compared to Sen. John Kerry's 207 projected votes.

A presidential candidate needs 270 votes to win in the Electoral College. However, even if Bush picked up no additional votes, the electoral vote tally would end in a 269-269 tie, sending the election to the Republican-dominated House. Bush would most likely win the support of a majority of the state delegations there, resulting in re-election through unconventional means.

Thus, if NBC News' projections hold firm, Bush would be returned to office ... the easy way or the hard way. And several states have yet to be called.

Time stamps reflect the time that NBC News made its call rather than the precise time of posting. Electoral vote tallies are based merely on projections and should not be considered conclusive. Learn more about how NBC News projects election winners, and get the whole story about the presidential race , the balance of power in the Senate and the House , the nation's governors and gay-marriage bans .

Nov. 3, 2004 | 12:30 a.m. ET
Back and forth: NBC News assigns Maine's fourth electoral vote to Sen. John Kerry, bringing the electoral vote tally to 207 for the Democrat, and 246 for President Bush. The winner needs to get 270 votes.

NBC also declares Democrat Ken Salazar the projected winner over Pete Coors in the hotly contested race for Colorado's open Senate seat. Meanwhile, Republican Richard Burr is the projected winner for the North Carolina Senate seat being vacated by Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards.

Nov. 3, 2004 | 12:23 a.m. ET
Colorado and Florida to Bush: NBC News declares President Bush the projected winner in Florida and in Colorado (12:19 a.m.). That gives President Bush a 246-206 lead over Sen. John Kerry in the electoral vote count, with 270 required for election.

Nov. 3, 2004 | 12:09 a.m. ET
Montana to Bush: NBC News declares President Bush the projected winner in Montana. That gives Bush a 210-206 edge over Sen. John Kerry in the electoral vote tally, with 270 required for election.

Nov. 3, 2004 | 12:03 a.m. ET
Oregon to Kerry: NBC News declares Sen. John Kerry the projected winner in Oregon, giving him a tally of 206 electoral votes to President Bush's 207. The winner needs 270 votes.

Also, NBC News says Republican incumbent Arlen Specter is the projected winner of Pennsylvania's Senate seat.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 11:25 p.m. ET
Ballot-box 'Survivor': Some voters have been standing in line for more than nine hours at a polling place in Gambier, Ohio, in Knox County, NBC News reports. In Ohio's Franklin County, the wait reportedly is running into three or four hours.

Such marathon waits, reminiscent of the "stand-on-a-log" endurance test from the "Survivor" reality-TV show, have arisen because of a dearth of voting machines to handle overwhelming turnout. It's this situation that led federal judges to authorize an extension of polling hours and the extraordinary use of supplemental paper ballots, NBC reported.

This could hold up the vote tally and extend the uncertainty surrounding Ohio's crucial and too-close-to-call presidential results.

Meanwhile, NBC News declared Republican incumbent Jim Douglas the projected winner in the Vermont gubernatorial race at 11:11 p.m. ET.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 11 p.m. ET
West Coast calling: The official poll closing times have passed in California, Hawaii, idaho, Oregon and Washington. Here are NBC's projections for the top of the hour:

President: Sen. John Kerry is the projected winner in California and Washington. President Bush is the projected winner in Idaho. Hawaii and Oregon are too early to call. The electoral vote tally stands at 207 for Bush, 199 for Kerry. The winner will need to have 270 electoral votes.

Senate: Projected winners include Democratic incumbents Barbara Boxer of California, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Patty Murray of Washington; and Republican incumbent Mike Crapo of Idaho.

Governor: Washington's gubernatorial race is too early to call.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 10:49 p.m. ET
Pennsylvania and Arizona: NBC News declares Sen. John Kerry the projected winner in Pennsylvania, and President Bush the projected winner in Arizona. That puts the electoral vote tally at 203 for Bush, 133 for Kerry. The winner will need 270 electoral votes.

Also, Republican incumbent Mitch Daniels was named the projected winner in the race for Indiana governor at 10:23 p.m. ET, and Democratic incumbent Ruth Ann Minner was named the projected winner in the Delaware governor's race at 10:24 p.m.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 10:16 p.m. ET
Missouri for Bush: NBC News declares President Bush the projected winner in Missouri. Bush leads Sen. John Kerry in the electoral vote tally, 193-112, with 270 required for election.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 10:06 p.m. ET
Arkansas for Bush: NBC News declares President Bush the projected winner in Arkansas, bringing his electoral vote tally to 182. Based on his projected victories, Sen. John Kerry currently has 112 votes.

President Bush has said he hoped the election would be decided tonight, but Newsweek's Jonathan Alter told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that most "sensible speculation" points toward a resolution no earlier than Wednesday.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 10 p.m. ET
Vigil for the vote: The official poll closing time has passed in Iowa, Montana, Nevada and Utah. Here are the top-of-the-hour projections from NBC News:

President: President Bush is the projected winner in Utah. Iowa and Nevada are too close to call, and Montana is too early to call. Bush leads Sen. John Kerry in the electoral vote tally, 176-112, with 270 votes required to win.

Senate: Projected winners include Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley in Iowa, Democratic incumbent Harry Reid in Nevada and Republican incumbent Robert Bennett in Utah. If Democrat Tom Daschle loses his seat in South Dakota, Reid would likely become the new Senate Democratic leader.

Governors: Jon Huntsman is the projected winner in Utah. The Montana race is too close to call.

It's unclear whether there will be a decisive presidential winner tonight. Tens of thousands of absentee ballots from Florida's biggest counties still have to be counted, and Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood indicated that it could take until Thursday to finish the job.

Meanwhile, in New Mexico, Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron told NBC News that there's very little chance anything close to final numbers will be available tonight. There are already several thousand provisional ballots that have been filed, and those will have to be verified before they can be counted. That will take time, Vigil-Giron said.

NBC News projects that Colorado's initiative to change the way electoral votes are apportioned will go down to defeat.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 9:47 p.m. ET
South Carolina Senate: NBC News declares Republican Jim DeMint the projected winner in South Carolina's Senate race.

Also, North Dakota's initiative to ban gay marriages is projected to win approval.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 9:25 p.m. ET
Louisiana and Mississippi for Bush: President Bush is the projected winner in Louisiana and Mississippi. That brings his electoral vote tally to 171, compared with Sen. John Kerry's 112. The winner will need 270 electoral votes.

Also, NBC News projects that defense-of-marriage initiatives in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Ohio will be approved.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 9 p.m. ET
Fresh crop of projections: The specified poll closing times have passed in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Voting is continuing in some states even though the closing time has come and gone, due to long lines at polling places. A federal judge has ordered Ohio election officials to let voters use paper ballots as well as voting machines to cut down on wait times.

NBC News' Lisa Myers reports that the Bush-Cheney campaign believes exit-poll results are underrepresenting the GOP vote, citing partial voting results in Virginia, South Carolina and Florida.

Here are NBC News' projections for 9 p.m. ET:

President: Races in Arizona, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are too early to call. Colorado and New Mexico are too close to call. President Bush is the projected winner in Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. Sen. John Kerry is the projected winner in New York and Rhode Island. Bush leads in the electoral vote tally, 156-112. Election requires 270 electoral votes.

Senate: Projected winners include Republican incumbent John McCain in Arizona, Republican incumbent Sam Brownback in Kansas, Democratic incumbent Charles Schumer in New York, Democratic incumbent Byron Dorgan in North Dakota and Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold in Wisconsin. Senate races in Colorado and Louisiana are too early to call, the race in South Dakota is too close to call.

Governors: Republican incumbent John Hoeven is the projected winner in North Dakota.

In addition, NBC News declared Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln the projected winner for Arkansas' Senate seat at 8:56 p.m. The Florida initiative on teen pregnancy and the Oklahoma defense-of-marriage initiative were projected to pass at 8:51 p.m.

Time stamps reflect the time that NBC News made its call rather than the precise time of posting. Electoral vote tallies are based merely on projections and should not be considered conclusive. Learn more about how NBC News projects election winners, and get the whole story about the presidential race , the balance of power in the Senate and the House , the nation's governors and state initiatives .

Nov. 2, 2004 | 8:41 p.m. ET
Virginia for Bush: President Bush is the projected winner in Virginia, bringing his electoral vote lead over Sen. John Kerry to 102-77. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to be elected president.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 8:30 p.m. ET
South Carolina and Arkansas: President Bush is the projected winner in South Carolina, bringing his electoral vote lead over Sen. John Kerry to 89-77. Also, the official poll closing time has passed in Arkansas, but the presidential and senatorial races in that state are still judged too early to call.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 8:27 p.m. ET
Oklahoma Senate: NBC News declares Republican Tom Coburn the projected winner in the Oklahoma Senate race.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 8:19 p.m. ET
North Carolina for Bush: NBC News declares President Bush the projected winner in North Carolina. Bush currently leads Sen. John Kerry in the electoral vote tally, 81-77. There are also calls to extend voting hours in Louisiana and provide more voting machines in Ohio.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 8 p.m. ET
Prime-time projections: Poll closing time has come to Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Balloting may be continuing at some polling places if voters are still in line, but NBC News has announced these projections:

President: Florida race is too close to call, as is Missouri. Pennsylvania is too early to call, as are Michigan and New Hampshire. President Bush is the projected winner in Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Sen. John Kerry is the projected winner in Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine (one electoral vote still undecided), Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Kerry leads in the electoral vote count, 77-66.

Senate: Projected winners include Republican incumbent Richard Shelby in Alabama, Democratic incumbent Chris Dodd in Connecticut, Democrat Barack Obama in Illinois, Democratic incumbent Barbara Mikulski in Maryland, Republican incumbent Kit Bond in Missouri, Republican incumbent Judd Gregg in New Hampshire. Senate races in Florida and Pennsylvania are too close to call, and the Oklahoma race is too early to call.

Governors: The races in Delaware and New Hampshire are too early to call, and Missouri is too close to call.

Time stamps reflect the time that NBC News made its call rather than the precise time of posting. Learn more about how NBC News projects election winners, and get the whole story about the presidential race , the balance of power in the Senate and the House , the nation's governors and state initiatives .

Nov. 2, 2004 | 7:44 p.m. ET
West Virginia for Bush: NBC News declares President Bush the projected winner in West Virginia. Bush currently leads Sen. John Kerry in the electoral vote tally, 39-3.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 7:30 p.m. ET
Half-hour poll closings: The official poll closing time has passed in North Carolina, West Virginia and Ohio, even though some voters are reportedly still standing in line at polling places and will be allowed to vote.

Here are the 7:30 p.m. projections from NBC News:

President: The race is too close to call in North Carolina and Ohio. West Virginia's race is too early to call. The projections announced so far give President Bush 34 electoral votes and Sen. John Kerry three electoral votes.

Senate: In Ohio, Republican incumbent George Voinovich is the projected winner. The North Carolina Senate race is too close to call.

Governors: Democratic incumbent Mike Easley is the projected winner in North Carolina. Democrat Joe Manchin is the projected winner in West Virginia.

Time stamps reflect the time that NBC News made its call rather than the precise time of posting. Learn more about how NBC News projects election winners, and get the whole story about the presidential race , the balance of power in the Senate and the House , the nation's governors and state initiatives .

Nov. 2, 2004 | 7 p.m. ET
Top-of-the-hour calls: Now that polls have closed in the first wave of states, here are the 7 p.m. projections from NBC News:

President: In Georgia, Indiana and Kentucky, President Bush is the projected winner. Sen. John Kerry is the projected winner in Vermont. South Carolina vote is too early to call, and the Virginia vote is too close to call.

Senate: Republican Johnny Isakson is the projected winner in Georgia. Democratic incumbent Evan Bayh is the projected winner in Indiana. Pat Leahy is the projected winner in Vermont. The Kentucky and South Carolina Senate races are too close to call.

Governors: The races in Indiana and Vermont are too early to call.

Initiatives: Projections indicate that the Kentucky defense-of-marriage initiative will pass.

Time stamps reflect the time that NBC News made its call rather than the precise time of posting. Learn more about how NBC News projects election winners, and get the whole story about the presidential race , the balance of power in the Senate and the House , the nation's governors and state initiatives .

Nov. 2, 2004| Updated 5:59 p.m. ET
Provisional government: In the year 2000, all the talk was about punch-card ballots and hanging chads. In 2002, we worried about touch-screens and electronic glitches. This year, it's clear that missing absentee ballots and the widespread need for provisional ballots will rate among the top Election Day snags.

The provisional ballots, mandated by the federal Help America Vote Act, are made available to voters who don't show up on the registration rolls. Those ballots are being set aside and reviewed for validity after Election Day.

In Allegheny County, Pa., poll workers were running out of the special ballot forms because as few as 12 of them were distributed to each voting location, NBC News reported. Pennsylvania election officials said that if polling places run out, photocopied provisional forms could be used instead.

Voters in neighboring Ohio, another battleground state, may be seeing a lot more of those provisional forms in the next couple of hours: In the run-up to today's balloting, Ohio election officials had ruled that absentee voters who showed up at polling places because they didn't receive their ballots would not be allowed to cast provisional votes, due to concerns about double voting. But this afternoon, a federal judge issued a court order requiring distribution of the provisional ballots.

U.S. District Judge David Katz said the federal law was clear: "All those who appear at polling places and assert their eligibility to vote irrespective of the fact that their eligibility may be subject to question ... shall be issued a provisional ballot."

Katz said he realized that "it is late on election day" but added that he had to take this action "to protect the rights of Ohio citizens."

Plenty of Ticktock readers chimed in on the provisional ballot, saying they weren't sure whether their vote would end up being counted. Here are a couple of case histories:

Doug, Perrysburg, Ohio: "I voted in the form of a provisional ballot today, and the election volunteers all seemed to know the procedure and it went very smoothly. Also, it was a punch-card ballot, and if you take a second to check the back of the card before you submit it, you can see for yourself there are no 'hanging or pregnant' chads. I saw no problems with the procedure."

Megan Valentine, Lanham, Md.: In a system that is just begging for irregularities, Prince George County, Md., has implemented a dual-accounting system that not only requires voters to appear on the registration roll, but to also have individually named voting cards to run through the computerized voting machine. If your card gets misfiled (which is what happened to me this morning), you are not allowed to vote a full ballot and must instead vote a provisional ballot. Mere words cannot express my ire at the senselessness of this procedure. I have spoken to voters from other Maryland counties and this system does not exist in other locales. The county election commissioner has already received my opinion on this matter. And so it begins."

Patricia L. Carroll, who moved from Washington state to California a year ago, describes her experience with the provisional ballot after a change-of-address glitch caused by the California Department of Motor Vehicles: "Unfortunately when we went to the polls this morning at 7 a.m., the people at the polls were not sure what to do with us. Thank goodness I had written down the instructions that they had given me on the phone on what we were to do. So I told them what we needed to do to be able to vote.

"We filled out the provisional pink card with our updated address information and handed it to the person in charge of the polls. She then dropped it into the voting box. Then we were handed a voting ballot and were told to vote.

"When we were done voting and went to drop the ballot in the voting box, we were asked where our pink provisional card was. We told the person in charge that she had taken it and had dropped it in the box earlier. The head of the polling place said to my husband, 'Oh well, (hee-hee) oops, I did the same thing to your wife but it will be OK, they will link up together when we are all done.'

"Now we are concerned that our votes will not count, due to their error. How many of the hundreds even found out that they could vote provisionally? Something is not right here."

Nov. 2, 2004 | 5 p.m. ET
New Hampshire recount: After I wrote up the item on the "first in the nation" vote from Hart's Location, N.H., local election officials revised their tally. Initially, the officials reported a 15-15 split between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, with one vote going to Ralph Nader. The revised tally is 16 for Bush, 14 for Kerry and one for Nader — which should give some additional comfort to the White House's current occupants. I'm just now catching up with the revision, and have updated the original item to reflect the correct count. Sorry about the delay.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 3:20 p.m. ET
A journalist's confession: I'm still sifting through the hundreds of e-mails sent in by Ticktock readers about their voting experiences. Your stories serve as a good balancer to the numbers games and the legal wranglings that could overwhelm the human side of Election Day.

You can look forward to a substantial selection of the feedback on provisional voting, missing absentees and other hot topics. But for now, I'd like to pass along this Election Day essay by my MSNBC.com colleague Brock N. Meeks, which he has titled ...

"Confessions of an Accidental Patriot"
By Brock N. Meeks
The polls here in Virginia opened at 6 a.m.  Not wanting to take chances being stuck in a long line, I adjusted my morning schedule to make sure I could be at the polling place, my children’s elementary school, just as the polls opened.

Nice plan, didn’t work.  By the time I drove the four blocks to the school there were more than 100 people in line.  It took me 45 minutes just to sign in and another 15 to step into a voting “booth” (a small pedestal with three sides about 18 inches high, just enough to keep the touch screen of my voting machine hidden from the prying eyes of the nearest impressionable voter). 

But that’s not the real story this morning … that all began nearly the moment I stepped out of my car.

Heading into the school building and muttering something about “just like Disneyland with no ‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride’ payoff at the end,’” I nearly collided with a man clearly intent on placing a piece of bright yellow paper in my hand.

“Sample ballot?” he called out with all the singsong rhythm of a Bourbon Street barker hawking strip-club seductions.

“No thanks,” I said gruffly.

Apparently his clone, standing about 25 feet away, didn’t catch our exchange, because he pitched me nearly the same line but with an important difference.  “Care for a sample Democratic ballot?”

These so-called “sample” ballots have every Democratic candidate marked with an “X” because, I can only guess, these clever Democratic operatives don’t believe people in their own party are smart enough to recognize which candidates are actually running as Democrats.  Or they believe Republicans are so weak-willed or stupid that if they see a “sample” ballot with only Democrats marked they might actually march into the polling place and vote for “their guy.”

I breezed by this political hack but suddenly stopped.  I turned and walked back to the first guy.

“Is that a Democratic ‘sample’ ballot, too?”  I asked.  The barker blinked.  “What a cheapjack little trick.  You should be ashamed of yourself.”  I turned and headed again to the polling place.  As I brushed by the clone, I said, “Are you sure you’re 150 feet from the polling place?”  He answered, “You only have to be 40 feet!”

“Then back up,” I said, and went inside.

Standing in line people were joking, lamenting the lack of caffeine and waxing nostalgic about elections past.  “Last election, I came in at 6 and was outta here by 6-oh-3,” the guy behind me said.

Several people were examining their yellow “sample” ballots.

A cheery election official (he was actually wearing a badge that said “election official” ... I’m using journalistic license and assuming he was “cheerful,” given the smile on his face) was collecting the sample ballots from people who were done with them, because there were no trash bins in the school hallway where we were all lined up.

And then with this handful of “sample” ballots, the election official did an astounding thing.  “Does anyone need a sample ballot?” he said in a loud voice, holding up a fistful of the yellow, Democratic “sample” ballots.  “Anyone?!”

About a dozen people held up their hands, and he passed out the ballots ... and I nearly swallowed my tongue.

I turned quickly to the guy behind me. “Excuse, please hold my place in line, I’d like to talk to this guy,” I said, motioning to the election official.  I didn’t even wait for an answer.

I cornered the official, a smallish, older gentleman — who, had age not stooped him, would have stood eye-to-eye with me.

“Excuse me, sir, but I don’t believe it’s legal for you to be handing out those ballots,” I said.  He looked clearly perplexed and a little offended. When I pointed out they were “Democratic” sample ballots, well, I thought he was going to be ill.

“Oh dear lord,” he said, and he licked his lips, which had suddenly become very dry.  “You’re absolutely right, young man, thank you very much.”

He hustled out into the hallway, negotiating a tricky corner on the slick linoleum with all the moves of an all-star halfback.  By the time I’d reinserted myself into the line, he’d already collected all the sample ballots he distributed, apologized and explained himself.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I would have done the same thing had this been a Republican “sample” ballot.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 2:12 p.m. ET
Litigation update: Republicans in Florida's Seminole County have won a temporary injunction that will keep Democrats from distributing materials that intimidated GOP poll watchers.

In fliers and phone calls directed at the poll watchers, Florida Democrats said that state law requires a poll worker to explain in writing and under oath the basis of a polling-place challenge, and noted that it is a crime to "intimidate, threaten ... any person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such person to vote."

The court ordered the Democratic defendants to stop "further dissemination of these materials ... designed or intended to intimidate or unduly threaten the activities of poll watchers who are duly carrying out their responsibilities granted in Florida statutes."

Meanwhile, a judge in South Dakota, ruling in a lawsuit brought by Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and his supporters, has ordered supporters of Daschle's Republican opponent, John Thune, to stop following Native Americans to the polls and writing down their license numbers. That conduct, the judge said, was voter intimidation, "whether the intimidation was intended or simply the result of excessive zeal."

Nov. 2, 2004 | 1:37 p.m. ET
Absent absentees: Ohio is once again the focus of a legal challenge — this one over the options that are open to voters who haven’t received their absentee ballots. As in: Are there any options?

State election officials say that voters who requested absentee ballots have given up their opportunity to vote in person, since their names are checked off in the poll register. That means voters who are missing their absentees aren’t being given provisional ballots if they show up at polling places.

Civil rights lawyers associated with the Democrats have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of one of the voters who was turned away in Ohio’s Lucas County, saying that the federal Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, trumps the state law. HAVA mandates provisional ballots for would-be voters who registered but for some reason don't show up on the election rolls. Such ballots are checked and counted (or set aside) after Election Day.

The lawsuit quotes Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell as saying: “Because HAVA is silent on the issue of providing provisional ballots to prospective voters simply because they claim they never received an absentee ballot, Boards of Elections should not provide a provisional ballot at the polling place so as to avoid facilitating potentially fraudulent acts by creating a situation where someone might vote twice.”

For full text of the court filings, check the Moritz College of Law's Election Law Web site. For up-to-date news on all of the day's election glitches, check out our continually updated roundup on voting problems . And if you're experiencing problems yourself, your best line of defense is the Voter Alert Line at 1-866-MYVOTE1.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 1:07 p.m. ET
How much closer can it get? It's absolutely possible for President Bush and Sen. John Kerry to end up with a tie vote in the Electoral College, according to the Election Day poll projection from Slate. There's a similar knife-edge margin at Electoral-Vote.com, which gives Kerry 262 electoral votes, Bush 261, and leaves the 15 others up for grabs. The final MSNBC Horserace count plays it safer, giving 222 votes to Bush and 207 to Kerry, leaving the 109 others as tossups.

After trumpeting the 269-269 tie, Slate's analysts fudge their figures to give Kerry a slight edge in the handicapping. Of course, all this political prognostication will be moot in a few hours. But you can use the figures to do a little punditry yourself while you're waiting for the real verdict.

The states where the polls close earliest — Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia — should produce relatively decisive results at 7 p.m. ET, favoring the GOP. But the margins of victory could be compared with the various polls to see if there might be some unpredictable but decisive shift in election trends. For example, will a higher-than-expected youth vote make the Red states a little less Red? Will a strong turnout among rural voters and other traditional GOP strongholds boost the president's numbers?

Admittedly, it's a parlor game, but it could keep your mind occupied during what could be a long evening. To find out what happens if the Electoral College really does become deadlocked, check out this report from NBC News' Brian Williams.

Nov. 2, 2004 | Updated 11:26 a.m. ET
Big picture at the polls: Isolated incidents of polling-place conflicts are cropping up around the country, but, for the most part, voting is proceeding challenge-free, according to Doug Chapin, director of ElectionLine.org.

In Florida, Democrats have heard of only a "small handful" of challenges statewide, a dozen or less, and they're satisfied with how local election officials are handling the cases, NBC News' Chip Reid reports. Democrats are saying the same thing in Ohio. Many of the party-affiliated challengers who had been slated to go to the polls are now reportedly being used in other capacities.

That's not to say the morning has been glitch-free: Republicans in Florida's Seminole County report that Democrats have been harassing their poll observers. And there was a flurry of reports about voting-machine irregularities in Philadelphia — to such an extent that the city official in charge of elections issued a statement knocking those reports down:

"Recent press reports have stated that machines in at least one precinct were not properly calibrated to ensure an accurate accounting of the number of votes cast," Philadelphia City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione said in the statement. "These allegations are completely unsubstantiated and have no factual basis whatsoever."

I'm getting lots of anecdotal e-mail from Ticktock readers about the morning's balloting, and will pass along some of your comments — just as soon as I get out and vote myself!

Nov. 2, 2004 | 10:06 a.m. ET
Candidates' voting traditions: President Bush voted at the Crawford Fire Station, in his Texas home base. Vice President Dick Cheney cast his ballot at the New Wilson Fire House in Wilson, Wyo., shortly after 9 a.m. ET.

Sen. John Kerry, meanwhile, is flying back to Boston after a Wisconsin campaign rally, will have his traditional Election Day lunch at the Union Oyster House, then will register his vote at the Massachusetts State House.

And what about Kerry's running mate, Sen. John Edwards? He voted early, on Friday in Raleigh, N.C.

Speaking of election traditions, Ticktock reader John B. in Fairfax, Va., notes that the Weekly Reader superstition hasn't been infallible:

"Pardon me if I'm wrong, but I quite clearly remember the Weekly Reader Poll choosing then-President G.H.W. Bush over Bill Clinton in 1992," he writes. "I distinctly remember the choice being attributed by some to the fact that Bush the elder reminded children of their (kinder) grandparents, whereas Clinton reminded them of their parents."

The election analysis could be the subject of debate, but a check of Weekly Reader's Web site confirms John B.'s recollection.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 7:57 a.m. ET
Getting the party started: With the way cleared by federal courts, party-appointed watchdogs have taken their place at the polls in Ohio. NBC News quotes Franklin County election officials as saying the watchdogs are observing the balloting process — but no voters have faced challenges yet.

Across the East, voters lined up as if the election were the latest "Star Wars" movie. At one polling place in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., The Associated Press reports that nearly 100 people were queued up for the 6 a.m. PT poll opening.

In another microscopic slice of the voting process, NBC's "Making Your Vote Count" operation reports that polling started a half-hour late at Precinct 337 in Hialeah, Fla. (Miami-Dade County). "Extremely long lines with frustrated voters," according to the reports.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 7:30 a.m. ET
Challengers cleared in Ohio: As prime-time voting begins along much of the East Coast, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens says he will not intervene in the court battle over polling-place watchdogs in Ohio.

“While I have the power to grant the relief requested, I decline to do so for prudential reasons,” Stevens wrote.

“Practical considerations, such as the difficulty of digesting all of the relevant filings and cases, and the challenge of properly reviewing all of the parties’ submissions as a full Court in the limited timeframe available, weigh heavily against the granting the extraordinary type of relief requested here. Moreover, I have faith that the elected officials and numerous elections volunteers on the ground will carry out their responsibilities in a way that will enable qualified voters to cast their ballots.

“Because of the importance of providing the parties with a prompt decision, I am simply denying the applications to vacate stays without referring them to the full Court.”

That means party-appointed challengers will be able to contest the credentials of voters at the polls. Republicans say this will guard against what they fear might be widespread election fraud, while Democrats say such widespread challenges could force long delays and have a chilling effect on inexperienced voters. We'll see what happens as the day progresses.

Another thing to watch for is time-limit voting — one Ticktock reader in South Carolina already has written in saying he's heard reports that voters might be given just three minutes in the voting booth before a poll worker taps them on the shoulder and urges them to move along.

"I plan to go and vote at 7 a.m. when the poll opens and we shall see if the story, aired on this major network station out of Spartanburg, S.C., holds true," Corry Clark wrote. "If it does, I will be calling the 1-866-MYVOTE1 number."

That's the number for the non-partisan Voter Alert Line, which helps NBC News monitor voting problems and can also put voters who are facing those problems in touch with their local election officials.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 2:35 a.m. ET
Supreme Court appeal: A federal appeals court has put a hold on two rulings that would have banned political-party watchdogs from challenging voters at Ohio polling places, opening the way for challengers to appear. But the appeals court's decision was in turn immediately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The two earlier rulings had held that the party challengers would unduly intimidate voters, and ordered that official election judges should be the only ones to lodge challenges. In a 2-1 ruling delivered early today, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency stay of those orders, saying there was a “strong public interest in permitting legitimate statutory processes to operate to preclude voting by those who are not entitled to vote.”

Republicans in particular are concerned about voter fraud, and have provided their polling-place challengers with long lists of names to target. Democrats are worried that the tactic will have a chilling effect on first-time voters, minorities and low-income people — whom they consider more likely to vote for Sen. John Kerry.

A black couple challenging the Republican polling-place plan and a local Democratic Party in Ohio filed separate appeals to the Supreme Court early Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.

Nov. 2, 2004 | Updated 5 p.m. ET
The first votes: Election Day's first results come from Hart's Location, N.H., where President Bush received 16 votes and Sen. John Kerry won 15 votes. Independent Ralph Nader came away with one vote.

For decades, several New Hampshire communities have vied for the "first in the nation" title, thanks to a state law that lets communities open their voting just after midnight on Election Day, then close the polls once all of the registered voters have cast their ballots.

Dixville Notch is arguably New Hampshire's best-known early polling place, but this time around, the tally for that town's 26 registered voters was not yet announced when Hart's Location came out with its count. Minutes later, Dixville Notch padded the incumbent's lead — with 19 votes going to Bush, seven to Kerry.

Hart's Location actually started the early-voting trend back in 1948, long before Dixville Notch joined in the tradition in 1960. But Hart's Location discontinued the practice in 1964, picking it up again only in 1996.

Since 1968, Dixville Notch's GOP primary vote has been an accurate predictor for the eventual nominee, but the record is spottier for the Democratic primary as well as the general election. Wikipedia provides the full voting records for Dixville Notch as well as for Hart's Location.

For what it's worth, Hart's Location favored Bush over Vice President Al Gore in 2000 by a 17-13 vote, while Dixville Notch gave 21 votes to Bush, five to Gore and one to Nader.

Updated at 5 p.m. ET with corrected vote count from Hart's Location.

Nov. 2, 2004 | 12:20 a.m. ET
China's November surprise: U.S. diplomats are abuzz about an election-eve commentary in China Daily, Beijing's official English-language newspaper, that levels criticism at the White House's "Bush Doctrine" and the conduct of the war in Iraq.

The article, bearing the byline of former Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, declares that the troubles facing the United States "do not stem from threats by others, but from its own cocksureness and arrogance." It says the war in Iraq has destroyed "the hard-won global anti-terror coalition" forged after 9/11.

A State Department spokesman said that the article wasn't consistent with the views Chinese officials shared with Secretary of State Colin Powell during his visit to Beijing last week, and that diplomats would be "discussing the remarks further with the Chinese government for purposes of clarification."

Chinese Embassy officials said China Daily did not get the commentary directly from Qian, and NBC News producer Eric Baculinao sheds additional light on the circumstances:

"According to the China Daily translation/opinion page organizer, Mr. Tan Songhai, 'My colleague saw the original Chinese article on Study Times Online, and he translated it.' He added he was not aware of any instruction that the piece was meant for internal readership only," Baculinao writes in an advisory from Beijing. "The timing and content of the anti-Bush commentary was startling because Chinese government spokespersons have all along been saying that China would not comment on any issues related to the U.S. elections, for fear of being perceived as interfering in the U.S. internal affairs."

Nov. 1, 2004 | 11:45 p.m. ET
Watching the vote: The battle lines are clearly drawn for the Election Day vote, based on the e-mail I've been receiving. If you're a Democrat, you're worried about voter intimidation, electronic-voting glitches and missing ballots, as reported on the Daily Kos blog. If you're a Republican, you're focusing on how the news media have been spinning the buildup to the big day, and on the potential for fakery and voter fraud, as reported on the PowerLine blog.

Some Ticktock readers have pointed to the Live Vote brouhaha here at MSNBC as a worrisome sign of the shape of things to come.

"Now I am even more concerned that the new polling computers that are going to be used in my state are going to be 'hacked' or 'overpopulated' like your Live Vote was," Jen writes from Phoenix. "Thanks for recognizing the problem and for letting the public know not to throw in the towel yet."

E-voting has its pluses (no hanging chads) as well as its minuses (the computer security issue), but the systems being used in Arizona and elsewhere are far more secure than our Live Vote system. There's a growing consensus that e-voting machines really need to provide a voter-verifiable audit trail — which is definitely a turnabout from two years ago. If we can get through this election, a blend of "paper trail" e-voting and optical-scan ballots will most likely become the standard for future balloting.

But first we'll have to watch how this Election Day goes. Be sure to get out and vote, then watch the event unfold on NBC, MSNBC or right here on the Web.

Nov. 1, 2004 | 11:45 p.m. ET
How will it play in Vegas? Jon Bonné, my officemate at MSNBC.com, passes along this report about Nevada's approach to Election Day:

The Nevada Republican Party will have about 200 people mobilized statewide as "poll watchers" and "poll checkers," plus about 60 lawyers. Poll watchers spend the day at a specific polling place, monitoring that machines haven't broken down and watching the turnout. Poll checkers do something similar, but are roving. ...

State GOP also has about 60 attorneys, including some from out of state, "as an extra resource just in case something comes up."  About half will be "roving attorneys," going from polling place to polling place and checking in with the watchers and checkers. By contrast, Nevada Republican Party executive director Chris Carr estimates the Democrats have "several hundred" attorneys on the ground.

Challenge of a voter must come from another voter in the same precinct, so any challenge effort would have to be run through local voters, and Secretary of State Dean Heller, a Republican, has warned against interfering with the process.

GOP officials aren't terribly concerned about challenges and irregularities. While there have been a few incidents popping up with early voting, which began Oct. 14 and ended Friday, they expect things to be calm.

"Nevada doesn't have a history of people who dont exist voting," Carr said. "We feel the election is going to run fairly smoothly."

Plus, the electronic machines used in the state are unique in that they print out a paper receipt, viewable under a glass window, that allows voters to verify their vote choices have been properly recorded.

Last day to register by mail was Oct. 2, last day in person was Oct. 12, all before early voting began. So local officials have had ample time to check registrations.

Nov. 1, 2004 | 11:05 p.m. ET
From longest day to longest day: President Bush is winding up his longest day of campaigning — a marathon that began in Ohio and hopped through Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Mexico before coming home to Texas. The day's final rally is taking place in Dallas, and Bush is to spend the night at his ranch in Crawford, Tex.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Kerry flew from Florida to Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. Kerry is spending the night in La Crosse, Wis., where he'll appear at a morning Election Day rally. Then he'll return to Boston for an Election Day tradition — lunch at the Union Oyster House.

Nov. 1, 2004 | 10:30 p.m. ET
Fair and balanced superstitions: Debra Mack of Jacksonville, Fla., wants to make sure both sides get their due in the election prediction game:

"I read today about the superstitious belief that when the Redskins lose the game before the election, the incumbent president loses," Mack writes. "However, I also read last week where Weekly Reader has accurately predicted the presidential race since they started tracking the votes of children K-12, and that vote was 60 percent Bush.

"The Weekly Reader article did not hit the AP wire, unlike the [claim that the] Washington Redskins being defeated would result in Kerry being president (which was on the front page of all newspapers and Internet news sites )."

Consider this a small step in the struggle to give equal time to Election Day superstitions. It appears that one of these old wives' tales will have to fall by the wayside this year, just as the World Series election superstition bit the dust back in 1976. After all, even the Curse of the Bambino didn't last forever.

Nov. 1, 2004 | 10:30 p.m. ET
Decision desk update: As promised, here's more on how NBC News will be projecting the winners on Election Day (or later).

Nov. 1, 2004 | 9:45 p.m. ET
Late-night legalities: The battle over voting in Florida reached into a Broward County courtroom tonight, with the state Republican Party contending that inaccuracies in the voting rolls left the county open to fraud and double voting.

NBC News' Kerry Sanders reports that the party filed suit against the county's supervisor of elections, Brenda Snipes, seeking three actions:

An overnight update of the voter list to prevent fraud.

Permission for poll watchers to observe what is going on at polling places.

Proper processing of challenges made by poll watchers.

During tonight's hearing, Snipes agreed to take those three actions, Sanders quotes GOP officials as saying. The lawsuit was then dismissed "without prejudice," meaning it could be filed again. The Miami Herald quotes Broward County Circuit Judge David Krathen as saying that the suit was groundless and that he didn't want to "micromanage the election." (Registration required to read article.)

Meanwhile, NBC's Pete Williams reports that Ohio Republicans have won a "consolation prize" in their quest to have their challengers on the scene at the state's polling place.

"The state Supreme Court has agreed to block a county judge's ruling that would have limited the number of challengers allowed at polling places where votes are cast for more than one precinct," Williams reports. "This will have practical significance only if the federal courts relent and allow challengers to be at the polls at all in the first place."

Nov. 1, 2004 | Updated 9 p.m. ET
MSNBC's Liveliest Vote: Who's leading in the presidential race? There's only one vote that really counts. OK, maybe two. Or how about three?

In any case, there are lots of poll results that don't count for all that much — and MSNBC's Live Vote would rank in that category. The Live Vote surveys are unscientific because they're self-selecting, and aren't really reflective of the population as a whole. Heck, if you know enough about how online cookies work, you can easily vote thousands of times.

Nevertheless, they can whip up a good conversation and a good controversy, particularly if you have dueling factions trying to stuff the ballot box. That happened back in 2001, when supporters on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict bumped up the back-and-forth vote count in a "Year in Pictures" contest. And it happens to this day with the standard Live Vote on the Bush-vs.-Kerry-vs.-Nader choice.

The Election Eve edition showed President Bush leading with 94 percent of the 1.2 million-plus votes cast — such a lopsided tally that it led some to wonder whether the vote was being hacked.

"How can you say it is close when you show a poll that Bush is winning? Something is wrong ... don't you think so?" one Ticktock correspondent asked. Another wrote, "Is this a case of computer hacking or real?"

It doesn't necessarily take a hacker to skew a Live Vote. All you need to do is spread the word to hundreds of thousands of your online friends, which is certainly within the capability of the major blogs and campaign sites. But in this case, the Web traffic showed a suspicious pattern: Even after the voting option had been turned off for readers of the Web page, votes continued to flow in at a pace of thousands per minute. That indicated that some folks were taking advantage of the underlying computer code.

In the end, the Live Vote was removed — just as the vote over the picture from the Gaza Strip was, back in 2001. Although this Live Vote now belongs to the ages, supporters of President Bush can take some comfort that in this balloting, at least, their man won in a landslide.

You can look at such votes as measuring the depth of interest one side or the other has when it comes to weighing in on a subject. But are they in any way reflective of how the real election will turn out? Don't bet any money on it.

Nov. 1, 2004 | 7:15 p.m. ET
The networks' numbers: Lots of folks are voting early this year to make sure their vote counts — but how do those votes count in the election projections generated for news outlets?

"Given the great increase in early voting in Florida, etc., how will NBC deal with adjusting exit-polling data collected during the day?" John in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., asks.

NBC, like the other major TV networks and The Associated Press, gets its exit-poll data from the National Election Pool, which was set up after the embarrassments that attended coverage of the 2000 presidential election. This year, the pool is conducting polls of absentee voters in 13 states — a substantial increase over the three states polled in 2000.

However, exit polls are just one component in the process of projecting election outcomes. Generally speaking, the networks also consider sample precincts as well as trends that develop as the tally proceeds.

This year, NBC News is taking a cautious approach to reporting projections — so cautious that you shouldn't expect to find references here to what other news organizations are projecting (or are rumored to be projecting). Like most of the other networks, NBC will have a "decision desk" that is isolated from the news flow so that the election analysts are less likely to fall prey to media groupthink.

If the margins are as close as they have been in the pre-election polls, you can count on hearing lots of "too early to call" and "too close to call" projections on Election Night. The early-voting factor is just one more reason why it's better to be safe than sorry.

Look for an article on MSNBC.com to explain this in much more detail on Election Day morn.

Nov. 1, 2004 | 6:35 p.m. ET
Web traffic jam: Dude, where's my polling place? Thousands of people have been trying to figure that out today using MyPollingPlace.com — so many, in fact, that the Web site was down for about an hour and a half, said spokeswoman Laurie Boeder.

"The rate's about 1,000 a minute," Boeder said of the Web access count. Finally, at about 6:15 p.m. ET, the site came back to life on a beefed-up Web server.

Boeder said there was no evidence of hacking and noted that the folks behind the non-partisan Web site expect an even bigger surge as Election Day dawns. So how much traffic can the strengthened system handle? Boeder was reluctant to say. "I don't want to jinx it," she joked.

Nov. 1, 2004 | 6:05 p.m. ET
Standing in line? We're already getting lots of great questions and comments from Ticktock readers — unfortunately, I'm going to have to pass up observations on why Candidate X or Y is going to win or deserves to win, as well as characterizations of who seems to be winning the most support in the early-voting lines.

But speaking of those lines, one reader asks: "What do they do at the polls if these hellish long voter lines still exist at poll closing time?"

In most states (including Florida), if you're standing in line when the polls officially close, you will still be allowed to register your vote. Just a couple of weeks ago, a county auditor in Iowa, where I was born and raised, got in trouble for going against that rule. To make absolutely sure about your state's policy, check with your local election office — you can get the contact information from our Decision 2004 registration guide.

This raises another point, however: Because the networks could announce their projections based on exit-poll and sample-precinct data after the official poll closing, you just might hear about your state's "projected winners" while you're standing in line to vote. As a science editor, I would advise you not to step out of line, win or lose. The projections are based on samplings that supposedly reflect the voting population as a whole — and that includes your yet-to-be-cast vote.

Nov. 1, 2004 | 5:30 p.m. ET
Ohio court rulings: Still no word on the appeal of federal rulings about polling-place challenges, but a federal judge in New Jersey deals another blow to plans for challenging thousands of voters in Ohio.

U.S. District Judge Dickinson Debevoise says Republicans can't use a 23,000-name list that was developed by sending out mail to registered voters' addresses and seeing which pieces of mail were returned. Ruling in a case filed in Newark, Debevoise says the effort violated an existing court order that blocks the party from engaging in ballot security programs unless they are cleared in advance by a federal court. Democrats argued that the GOP's plan unfairly targeted minority voters.

Nov. 1, 2004 | 5 p.m. ET
Going positive: After weeks of negative attacks, candidates are accentuating the positive on the last full day of campaigning . In Burgettstown, Pa., President Bush tells supporters that a vote for him will bring "a better day." In Orlando, Fla., Sen. John Kerry says "all of the hopes and dreams of our country are on the line." And in Des Moines, Iowa, Kerry's running mate, John Edwards, declares that "tomorrow hope will arrive."

Meanwhile, you can rely on Vice President Dick Cheney to strike an acerbic note amid all that rah-rah sweetness: After an all-night trip that brought the election battle to Hawaii's Pearl Harbor , Cheney flies back to Colorado and predicts that "John Kerry's goose is cooked" — a reference to Kerry's goose-hunting trip to Ohio last month.

Nov. 1, 2004 | 4:20 p.m. ET
Election epicenters: President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are marathoning around the country, but the more decisive dramas on Election Day will play out behind the scenes, most likely at polling places and in courtrooms in Florida and Ohio.

There's a blizzard of information available about the potential problems in those battleground states, including our voting glitch roundup , which will be updated regularly through Election Day. Here are a couple of other resources worth watching:

Our "Voter Alert" map tracks problems being called in to the non-partisan Voter Alert Line (1-866-MYVOTE1), and rates them according to relative volume. It's no surprise that two of the hottest pre-Election Day hot spots are centered on Florida's Broward County, where there have been significant problems with getting absentee ballots distributed. The two high-call-volume districts went overwhelmingly to the Democrats in the 2000 election.

Polling-place challenges are the hot topic in Ohio: Two federal district judges have ruled that party-sponsored teams should not be allowed to challenge a voter's credentials; rather, that job would be left to each polling place's appointed election judges. Those orders came as good news to the Democrats, who are worried about voter intimidation. But Republicans have voiced concern about voter fraud, and intervenors taking that side of the argument have asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block those orders.

"Removing challengers at this late juncture would only sow more confusion, increase the likelihood of fraud, and undermine confidence in the electoral process," the intervenors say. (PDF file).

Stay tuned for updates, and to read the actual court documents, check out the Election Law Web Site at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law.

Nov. 1, 2004 | 2:10 p.m. ET
Countdown to E-Day: This Election Day is going to be at least 24 hours long, starting at midnight ET tonight in Dixville Notch, where New Hampshirites are keeping up a 44-year-old "first in the nation" tradition. It won't end until at least the next stroke of midnight ET (8 p.m. Alaska time), when the polls close over most of the "Last Frontier." But the presidential election could well go on for weeks. Who's keeping track of the time?

This brand-spanking-new Web log serves as an answer to that question. Over the coming hours and days, Election Ticktock will serve as MSNBC's hot-linked chronicle of the election, alerting you to the latest "calls," polling-place glitches and hot topics on the Web.

Thousands of blogs will be covering the election, of course, but we hope you'll see this one as an honest-to-goodness no-spin zone, shedding plenty of light on the workings of this historic day while forgoing the heat and hype so often associated with the genre.

So what's a science editor like me doing on a blog like this? For years, I've been covering the geekier side of the electoral process — including reports on the continuing battle of the ballot , the potential perils of electronic voting and market-based political handicapping. As the author of Watch a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse online, MSNBC's longest-running blog, I'm also a naturalized citizen of the blogosphere, at least if you count my time in Internet years.

Finally, this is the kind of blog I'd love to see myself, as a habitué of places like Slate's Election Scorecard and Electoral-Vote.com (whose anonymous Webmaster revealed himself today). So we're hoping there'll be room for this Ticktock as well as First Read and our more opinion-laced forums, ranging from Congressman Joe to GlennReynolds.com to Hardblogger to Bloggermann to Altercation .

To tell the truth, I'm hoping that Ticktock will read more like my colleague Gael Fashingbauer Cooper's blow-by-blow blogging of reality TV . OK, maybe not quite as snarky, but fun and factalicious without ticking off the left or the right.

As for the name: "Ticktock" is an old newsroom term for a chronology-based account or timeline, seasoned with inside information. I'll try to provide a little inside baseball about how NBC News and MSNBC.com are covering this election, and dig up answers to your questions about election-day mechanics as well. Just use the "Write Us" box that's displayed on this page. I won't be able to answer every e-mail personally, but don't be surprised if your question shows up in the mix during the slack time in this 24-hour-plus day.

So synchronize your watches: After months of politicking, it's time for the Ticktock to begin.

If you link to this page, you can use http://ticktock.msnbc.com or http://www.electionticktock.com as the address. MSNBC is not responsible for the content of Internet links.

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