WASHINGTON (AP) — Around the country on Election Day 2012 with AP reporters bringing the latest developments to you:
ROMNEY WINS KY, OBAMA GETS VT
Polls are starting to close on the East Coast. The AP has called Kentucky (and its eight electoral votes) for Republican Mitt Romney, and Vermont (three electoral votes) for President Barack Obama.
HANNITY ON TWEET
"I learned a big civics lesson today." — Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity, who tweeted a picture of his filled-out ballot (for Mitt Romney, natch), only to learn that appeared to break the law in New York state.
— David Bauder — http://twitter.com/dbauder
There are people who believe in voting, and then there's Elisa Kennedy.
The National Association of Secretaries of State honored California's longest-serving poll worker with a medal Tuesday for her years of service — 75 of them, to be exact.
Kennedy, 96, born before women got the vote, began volunteering as a poll worker in San Francisco shortly after she reached eligible voting age. FDR was president — and it was his first term.
"A lot has changed in politics and in the world since Elisa first volunteered as a poll worker 75 years ago, but her commitment to democracy and her devotion to her community has remained constant," Secretary of State Debra Bowen said in a statement.
Kennedy, who has worked nearly 120 elections, said it's the "wonderful people" who keep her coming back.
"I find it very rewarding, in that I've met so many people through the years and it's been a great satisfaction to me," she said in a statement.
— Hannah Dreier — http://twitter.com/hannahdreier
IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID
It's the economy, stupid.
Preliminary results from a national exit poll for The Associated Press and the television networks show that 60 percent of the 18,237 voters surveyed by Edison Research said the economy was the biggest issue facing the country.
That's about the same percentage as the last general election four years ago.
Next were health care (18 percent of those surveyed) and the deficit (15 percent).
A measly 4 percent said foreign policy was the top issue.
Of those surveyed, 77 percent of voters called the economy not so good or poor.
The biggest economic concerns were unemployment and rising prices.
Most voters — about 6 in 10 — said taxes should be increased.
— Frederic J. Frommer — Twitter http://twitter.com/ffrommer
HEADED TO CHICAGO
Unlike many kids who get Election Day off from school, the president's daughters, Malia and Sasha, weren't so lucky. They were flying to Chicago after classes with their grandmother.
The president's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her family were also joining the Obamas in Chicago.
The first family planned to eat dinner together at their Chicago home.
— Julie Pace — Twitter http://twitter.com/jpaceDC
IOWA VOTES EARLY
Lines in Iowa, with its six electoral votes, weren't too bad at polling stations Tuesday — in part because up to 45 percent of the state's voters cast ballots early.
About 670,000 people had voted in Iowa by Monday night, according to Chad Olsen, a spokesman for Secretary of State Matt Schultz.
It's the sort of thing happening all around the country, though not necessarily in such high numbers.
Based on Monday's projections from George Mason University, 46.8 million Americans — more than one-third of those expected to cast ballots — would have voted by the time the first polls opened Tuesday morning.
One intriguing U.S. House race in Iowa is in the 4th Congressional District, where Republican Rep. Steve King has cruised in every race since he was first elected in 2002. The 63-year-old King acknowledged this year's challenge from Democrat Christie Vilsack has been difficult. Vilsack is married to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who was Iowa's governor for eight years.
— David Pitt — Twitter http://twitter.com/DavePitt
NOT OVER TILL IT'S OVER
Paul Ryan, his voice hoarse from days of breakneck campaigning, called in to Sean Hannity's radio show to urge anyone who hasn't yet voted to get to the polls.
"What I always tell people is, it's not over till it's over," he said.
Ryan told the conservative talk show host that good signs abound for him and Mitt Romney, from high turnout in Virginia to the thousands of supporters who turned up at rallies in the final days.
"We know people are going to look at long lines and they might think, 'Oh gee that's just too long.' Don't let that happen," Ryan said. "The future of your country is at stake."
Ryan was in Virginia, where he had just wrapped up a visit to a victory center in Richmond. From there, the vice presidential nominee was heading to Boston to meet up with Romney for the election night festivities.
— Josh Lederman — Twitter http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP
SHOTS WITH PIPPEN
An update from the president's basketball game: Former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen was one of the players, and Obama snagged him for his own team.
Also on Obama and Pippen's team was Alexi Giannoulias, a former Illinois state treasurer and 2010 Democratic U.S. Senate nominee.
"It was a lot of fun," Giannoulias said. "We won. I scored more points than Scottie Pippen, which was my dream come true."
On the other team were childhood friends Mike Ramos and Marty Nesbitt, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former captain of Harvard's basketball team.
The two five-player teams played four 12-minute quarters, and referees were brought in to call fouls.
Giannoulias said Obama's team won by "like 20," with a score of "like 102, 105, 108 or so to 80-something."
The basketball game is an Election Day tradition for Obama. In 2008, Obama played basketball with aides before winning the kickoff Iowa caucuses. They decided to make the games an Election Day tradition after he lost the next contest, the New Hampshire primary, on a day when they didn't hit the court.
— Julie Pace — Twitter http://twitter.com/jpaceDC
They're sticklers about stickers in Nebraska's Dakota County.
The Sioux City Journal says the county has a stash of "I Voted" stickers on hand — but Clerk Ted Piepho says the stickers aren't usable because they're not bilingual.
According to Piepho, a federal mandate requires all election items in Nebraska must be offered in English and Spanish. He says the budget didn't have room this year to buy a batch of bilingual stickers.
RAISE A GLASS
Raise a glass, Indiana voters!
A state law barring alcohol sales before the close of polls on Election Day has been lifted, so there's no longer any need to wait to celebrate if you think your preferred candidates won — or drown your sorrows if you're worried about defeat.
The first polls close in parts of Indiana at 6 p.m. EST.
The state legislature passed a law in March 2010 that repealed a ban on selling alcohol while polls are open. That ban had been on the books for years, according to John Livengood, president of associations representing Indiana's restaurants, hotels and liquor stores.
Only two states — Kentucky and South Carolina — still bar the sale of alcohol on Election Day.
— Howard Fendrich — Twitter http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
This just in from AP's Steve Peoples, in the air with Mitt Romney headed from Pittsburgh to Boston:
Speaking to reporters aboard his campaign plane on his last flight on the campaign, Romney said he just finished writing his victory speech on the flight from Pittsburgh to Boston.
"It's about 1,118 words. I'm sure it'll change before I'm finished because I haven't passed it around to my family and friends and advisors to get their reaction. But I've only written one speech at this point."
He said he had no regrets: "I feel like we put it all on the field. We left nothing in the locker room. We fought to the very end and I think that's why we'll be successful."
He also talked about his parents. "I think about my dad from time to time. And my mom. I sure wish they were around to be part of this," he said. "I hope they're able to watch in their own way."
— Steve Peoples — Twitter http://twitter.com/sppeoples
Actress Kate Walsh is a self-described "one-percenter" now, but in a personal video posted on her website, she says she grew up with government assistance.
Walsh speaks directly to the camera in the 6 1/2 -minute video she calls "My Story: Why I'm voting for Barack Obama." The 45-year-old actress explains that her father was an Irish immigrant and her family relied on food stamps when she was growing up. As a young woman, she amassed more than $30,000 in student-loan debt before quitting college to pursue acting. With no health insurance, Planned Parenthood provided her annual check-ups.
"It wasn't until I was 36 years old and I got on 'Grey's Anatomy' that I could finally pay back my student loans once and for all," she says. "And now, today, having been on television for a number of years, I am one of those one-percenters. And I'm not looking for a tax break or a tax cut. I just want to know how my taxes are going to be spent. And I want them to go back into the programs that will help the rest of America, the 47 percent, that, for me, are the foundation and the bedrock of this country. Because that's where I came from. That's who my people are."
She says she made the video "to explain a little bit about where I came from and why I'm doing what I'm doing" to support Obama and encourage people to vote.
— Sandy Cohen — Twitter http://twitter.com/APSandy
READY FOR THE CLOSE-UP
To prepare for Election Night, Romney staffers are walking across the stage at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, holding hands and waving to the cameras. At one point, a male and a female staffer held hands and hugged briefly. Then the man strode to the podium and waved to the bank of cameras.
The checks show staffers and TV crews how the shot will look when Romney strides in to make his speech late on Tuesday evening.
See the photo here:
— Kasie Hunt — Twitter http://twitter.com/kasie
Stop us if anything in here sounds familiar.
Election. Burglary. Political party office.
Police detectives are investigating an overnight burglary at the Seattle headquarters of the Washington state Democratic Party. Someone arriving for work found a broken window and open door and got police involved at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.
It's not yet known what might have been taken — and police spokesman Mark Jamieson says there's no immediate indication of a political motivation.
He calls it a burglary in a building that happens to house campaign folks.
— Doug Esser — Twitter http://twitter.com/apseattle
One more thing to add to the list of potential nightmare scenarios if the presidential election is extremely close: Provisional ballots that aren't counted for days or weeks.
Voters cast provisional ballots for a variety of reasons, including failing to bring ID to the polls, not updating voter registration after moving or trying to vote at the wrong precinct.
A federal election law passed after the 2000 presidential election gives voters the option to cast a provisional ballot, if poll workers deny them a regular one. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, voters who don't bring an ID to the polls can still have their votes counted if they produce an ID after Election Day. In Ohio, provisional voters have up to 10 days post-election to produce an ID.
If voters in Florida don't bring an ID to the polls, they must sign a provisional ballot envelope. Canvassing boards then will try to match the signatures with those in voter registration records, a process that conjures up images of the 2000 presidential election in Florida.
"It's a possibility of a complete meltdown for the election," said Daniel Smith, a political scientist at the University of Florida.
— Stephen Ohlemacher — Twitter http://twitter.com/stephenatap
After landing this afternoon at Pittsburgh International Airport, Mitt Romney walked from his plane to a fence on the edge of the runway. What he saw: a huge crowd gathered in a nearby parking garage to watch his arrival.
"That's when you know you're going to win," Romney said after waving to the roaring crowd.
Check out a photo here: http://pic.twitter.com/X4eDutqG
— Steve Peoples — Twitter http://twitter.com/sppeoples
NO MORE FRONT PORCH
Michael Oreskes, a veteran political journalist since the 1970s and now The Associated Press' senior managing editor for U.S. news, will be checking in briefly with Election Watch throughout the day. Here is his first report:
Once, admittedly a long time ago, campaigning for president on any day — let alone Election Day — was considered undignified. Candidates were limited to campaigning from their front porches.
That was then. Now we are seeing scenes America has never experienced before as part of its greatest unifying event, Election Day.
There was the president of the United States, on hold, waiting for a supporter in Wisconsin to come back on the line so he could make a final plea for turnout. Obama was visiting a campaign office near his home in Chicago.
That scene was nothing compared to what was playing out in Ohio. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were hopscotching the ultimate battleground state in a last ditch appeal. And Ryan had a shadow: Vice President Joe Biden somehow flew in too, in a last-ditch effort to mess up the Republicans' final message.
So much for campaigning from the front porch.
— Michael Oreskes
RYAN'S BACKUP PLAN
Paul Ryan has a backup plan.
In addition to being Republican Mitt Romney's running mate, the Wisconsin congressman is seeking re-election to the U.S. House. Ryan has held his 1st District seat in southeast Wisconsin since 1998.
State law allowed Ryan to run for VP and Congress at the same time.
It's been an uphill climb for his challengers for the House, Democratic businessman Rob Zerban and Libertarian Keith Deschler. Zerban tried for weeks — unsuccessfully — to get Ryan to debate him.
And what if Ryan wins twice Tuesday?
He would have to resign from Congress and a special election would be held to fill the House seat.
— Dinesh Ramde — Twitter http://twitter.com/dramde
EDITOR'S NOTE — Follow AP journalists on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.