"We've got 12 years of successful elections under our belt in Florida since we were in the spotlight," said Stephen Rosenthal, Obama's general counsel in the state.
This time around, observers looking for a drawn-out election should focus on the Buckeye State. Ohio orders a recount if the margin between the top two candidates is within one-fourth of a percentage point of the total votes cast.
But such a recount would begin only after the election results are certified in each individual county — and the deadline for that is 21 days after Nov. 6. The secretary of state would then need to certify the results, which a spokesman indicated would take a few additional days. In other words, it could take until December before a recount in Ohio even begins.
Candidates can also request a recount in Ohio, either for the entire state or individual precincts.
Though Republicans pushed to tighten voting requirements in an array of states the last two years, few of their proposals passed or survived legal challenges. That's left the voting landscape largely unchanged from four years ago.
"The strict voter I.D. laws that we were most concerned about aren't going to be in effect in any swing state," said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice.
A court ruled that Pennsylvania's strict new voter-ID law can't take effect until after the election, for instance. Restrictions on groups that register voters in Florida were reversed, and Colorado's secretary of state largely backed off a plan to force suspected noncitizens to provide proof of eligibility.
But several battlegrounds are notable exceptions. Virginia now requires voters to provide some kind of proof of identification, whether a driver's license or utility bill. That's a broader range of acceptable forms than most proposed voter-ID laws, but voters could still show up at the polls without any identification on hand. In that case, they'll have to cast a provisional ballot and prove their identity later — a headache if officials are trying to determine the winner of a close race in their state.
"That's the nightmare," Norden said. "That's definitely the nightmare."
The most likely scene of a protracted mess, however, is the premier battleground of Ohio. Secretary of State Jon Husted sent an application for an absentee ballot to every eligible Ohio voter, the first time that's been done in the Buckeye State. So far, 1.4 million people have applied for absentee ballots and 620,000 absentee votes have been cast, a Husted spokesman said on Thursday.
Here's the catch: If a voter applies for an absentee ballot, disregards it, and shows up to vote on Election Day, he or she can cast only a provisional ballot. And those votes can't be counted until 11 days after Nov. 6.