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  INCOMING! ELECTION DAY SPECIAL.  
   
   
  Really, is there more than one day that matters this week? For those of us who have kept even half an ear turned to the news in the last four years, if Tuesday doesn't go our way, life will pretty much be over.

If John Kerry supporters lose out, they'll be off to bury pennies in Folger's cans in their backyards, mourning the barren wombs of their Social Security accounts and tearing their clothes, as the rest of the world collectively slaps its foreheads over the re-election of President George W. Bush, the great orator who once said "I think we agree, the past is over." Kerry supporters sure hope so.

If the Bushies are shut down, there will be mayhem in the streets as celebratory Democrats everywhere break down the doors of clinics, seeking third-trimester abortions and picketing on the mall in Washington to raise the top-level tax bracket to 98.7 percent.

All that's left to do, obviously, is sit at home and pray. Pray for that Frenchy flip-flopper.

Undecideds will probably still be out there wandering through the amber waves of grain, too staggered by job losses, record deficits and the bloody carnage in Iraq to vote for Republicans, and too baffled by indecipherable plans for Social Security (we'll change it by keeping it the same!) and health care to vote Democrat. That is, if there are any undecideds on this planet.

Now, if you're a latecomer to The Black Table this week and are reading this before you get to the polls, shame on you! You get out there and vote, vote, vote! Let your voice be heard (assuming your vote gets counted, not crumpled into a ball and tossed into the dustbin by some shady election operative).

On that note, here's how Tuesday, November 2, will shake out from sea to shining sea. All times are Eastern Standard 'cause hey, that's where we are.

 

 
 

7:00 a.m.

Rise and shine, little voter! To accommodate busy New York worker bees, the polls open at the crack o'dawn in these parts and remain open until 9 p.m. If you live in some other state, you can head over to MyPollingPlace.com to find out what time you need to get your sorry ass in line.

New Yorkers love to talk about themselves, but this time around, there's not a whole lot to debate: The state bleeds blue, with nearly twice as many

   
 

people voting for Gore than for Bush in 2000. Its 31 electoral votes are going to John Kerry. This fact caused the massive influx of hipsters from swing states like Iowa and Wisconsin now living in Williamsburg to consider falsifying their addresses and voting in their parents' hometowns, but, frankly, they were just too lazy. Voter fraud avoided!

 

 
 

10 a.m.

Let the nail-biting begin: Polls in Ohio have now been open for more than three hours. More than just a plain old swing state, many believe the balance of the entire election hangs on Ohio's 20 electoral votes. No Republican has ever landed a seat in the White House without winning Ohio. Ohio or bust!

Before we even get to the task of counting ballots, the question has been whether eligible voters will make it to the booth at all, and if they do, whether anyone will bother to count their votes, or even if they'll be clubbed at the knees on their way into the polls.

In Ohio and Florida, partisan poll watchers will actually be sitting at polling areas, and if they don't like the look of you, they grab you by the scruff and challenge your qualifications. A former Cincinnati city council member filed suit last month alleging that the Republican Party is deploying most of its allotted challengers to precincts with

 
 
 

large minority populations (which tend to vote Democrat). At worst, this could intimidate voters. At best, it could create long lines and chaos, causing voters to throw in the towel, go home and toss a casserole in the oven instead.

It doesn't stop there. A federal judge recently blocked Republican-led efforts to wipe out about 35,000 "questionable" voter registrations, deemed so because mail sent to the addresses was returned. Democrats say the registrations likely belonged to poor minorities who move around a lot in search of cheap housing. Republicans vow to harass (er … question) these voters should they show up at the polls.

Meanwhile, Ohio's Republican secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, pushed for restrictive counting of provisional ballots for those who vote outside the proper district, which are required for the first time ever. Big get-out-the-vote drives this year mean lots of new voters, some of whom may end up arriving at the wrong polling stations. Restrictive interpretations of which ballots may be counted could mean thousands of votes tossed out -- likely, for the Democratic Party.

 

 
 

1 p.m.

Those crazy bastards who deem to tolerate South Dakota winters strapped on their snowshoes a few of hours ago, and by now have navigated the icy drifts to arrive at the nearest one-room schoolhouse or tepee to cast their ballot in the most hotly-contested Senatorial elections this year.

S.D.'s three electoral college points (which are definitely going to Bush) are a drop in the bucket, but all eyes will be on the too-close-to-call race between the Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle -- who's spent 18 years in the Senate -- and the popular former Republican Congressman John Thune, who appeals to conservative Christians.

Dakotans are unhappy with Daschle's criticisms of Bush and his reputation as the "great obstructer" of Republican policy in a nearly evenly divided Senate, but on the other hand are mindful of the millions of dollars he brings to an under-the-radar square state that benefits greatly from his powerful position on Capitol Hill. However, the staunchly

   
 

Republican state has a hard time ignoring Thune's criticisms of Daschle as a creepy crawly creature of D.C., not the Dakotas. This Senate race is particularly important. Daschle is one of the most prominent Democrats in Congress.

 

 
 

4 p.m.

Ah, beer. You're probably starting to need one by now, but for the moment, let's concentrate on the advertising. Beer commercials often feature some variation of a rushing mountain stream; twin girls in bikinis, four honey-toned thighs wrapped firmly around a Clydesdale, gallop through a rushing waterfall and reach perfectly manicured pinkies into the swirling waters, pulling out a dewy brown bottle of the good stuff to wrap their heart-shaped lips around. Or something like that.

So you might think that one of Colorado's most prominent beer makers really needs their streams clean for all this beer creation that goes on way up in the mountains (yeah, right). Pete Coors, on leave as chairman of Coors Brewing Company and Republican candidate for Senate, touts himself as an "avid outdoorsman" and "active in wildlife conservation" on his campaign Web site, but he has been under fire for financing groups that push anti-environmental causes and legislation. The Environmental Protection Agency cites the Coors

   
 

brewery as among the state's biggest polluters.

His challenger in one of the nation's tightest races is Ken Salazar, the state's attorney general, who helped shape a law that allows the use of lottery dollars for preservation and open spaces. He created the Environmental Crimes Unit to prosecute polluters and, while in private practice as an attorney, helped Denver's mayor shape a $1 billion project to preserve wildlife and rebuild parks, among other projects.

Coloradoans do love their beer, and name recognition has gotten Coors far … but do they love their bubbling mountain brooks more?

7 p.m.

Ohio polls close in half an hour. No matter your party, now is the time for gentle, gentle weeping. I recommend tissues with lanolin; they'll leave your nostrils less raw.

10 p.m.

Local news programs come on in many East Coast markets. Turn to your local network affiliate to watch your favorite helmet-haired anchors fuck up their predictions and to giggle as reporters hunker down under umbrellas, looking frazzled and wind-blown as they deliver pointless and pontificating exit-poll results.

11 p.m.

Polls close in Hawaii. Normally we mainlanders don't pay much attention to the land of pineapples and Poi, but now it merits watching. Hawaii's normally a solidly blue state, but recent polls there show the president and Kerry virtually tied, and there are signs that the Republican creep is increasing: The state elected its first Republican governor in 40 years in 2002. Dick Cheney even made an emergency run out there to try to sway, sway, sway the folks like a drunken team of hula dancers.

If you've recovered yet from the image of Cheney coming anywhere near a grass skirt, consider this. Hypothetically, if Kerry wins Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, and Bush wins Florida, Iowa, New Mexico and Arkansas, Kerry's electoral college votes will add up to 268, with Bush coming in at 266.

That means everyone will have to stay up agonizingly past their bedtime to see who Hawaii's four electoral college votes go to. Crazy.

***

Of course, the first 24 hours are just the beginning. If you think you'll know who wins bright and early on November 3 … you're mental. Carpal tunnel considerations prevent me from getting into an hour-by-hour account of the ballot recounts and court challenges that are likely to follow the election, and alas, hoping for a blowout is probably too much to ask.

But at some point, the concession speeches will come. If Bush has to give up the throne, here's what you might hear: "Although I was appointed by God to lead this great country, God has changed his mind. God also told me that Americans may, to a person, be devoured by wolves under John Kerry's leadership. So I will continue to pray for your souls. Good night and God bless."

If Kerry steps down, there's only one thing for him to say: "It was a close race folks, and we almost made it. Thank you for your votes, my fellow Americans, and I'd like to take this opportunity to announce the next phase in my career as the new spokesperson for Viagra."

Happy poll watching.

 

Erin Schulte has just made certain that Dick Cheney in a grass skirt will appear in every Black Table reader's nightmares for the next week.

***

INCOMING! runs every Monday on The Black Table.