President Obama has been re-elected to a second term with a resounding victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Obama ended the night with at least 303 electoral votes, sweeping the critical battleground states of Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Colorado. Obama’s tally is expected to rise after results are certified in Florida, where he currently leads Romney by over 46,000 votes. In a victory speech from Chicago, Obama said he returns to the White House with renewed purpose.
President Obama: "I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do."
Mitt Romney won the traditional Republican states but ended up with only one swing state victory, taking North Carolina. After reports that his campaign was questioning the results in Ohio, Romney finally emerged shortly before 1 a.m. EST to announce he had conceded the race.
Mitt Romney: "I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory. His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations. I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters. This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation."
President Obama will again face a divided Congress, with Democrats increasing their Senate majority by one seat and Republicans holding on to control of the House. Democrats retained the Senate after winning a series of key races in Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Connecticut, Nevada, Montana and other states. In Indiana, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly defeated Republican State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who became famous for suggesting pregnancies resulting from rape were God’s will. In Virginia, Democratic former Governor Tim Kaine beat Republican George Allen, also a former governor, for the Senate seat. In Ohio, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown held on to his Senate seat in a campaign that saw outside groups spend tens of millions of dollars to defeat him. In Connecticut, Democrat Chris Murphy defeated Republican nominee and wrestling magnate Linda McMahon.
The Senate races saw a series of major victories for Democratic women. In one of the most closely watched races nationwide, consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren unseated Republican Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts.
Elizabeth Warren: "This victory belongs to you. You did this. You did this. You did this. For every family that has been chipped at, squeezed, and hammered, we’re going to fight for a level playing field, and we’re going to put people back to work. You bet. That’s what we’re going to do, yes."
In Missouri, Democratic incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill held on to her seat, defeating Republican challenger Todd Akin. The race drew national attention after Akin claimed women are able to suppress pregnancy in instances of what he called "legitimate rape." McCaskill celebrated with supporters shortly after Akin conceded.
Rep. Todd Akin: "Well, things don’t always turn out the way you think they’re going to. I just called Claire McCaskill, and I gave her congratulations because the way the numbers are looking, we have lost this race."
Senator Claire McCaskill: "And they all said, ’It’s over. It’s done. It’s too red. It’s just too red. There is no way that Claire McCaskill can survive.’ Well, you know what happened? You proved them wrong."
In Wisconsin, Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin defeated Republican Tommy Thompson in the Wisconsin Senate race, becoming the first openly gay U.S. senator.
Election Day also saw voters decide on a series of landmark ballot initiatives to rewrite state laws. Advocates of marriage equality ended Tuesday with four out of four victories, as voters legalized same-sex marriage in Maine and Maryland, upheld same-sex marriage in Washington state, and defeated a measure to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
In addition to same-sex marriage, Maryland voters also affirmed the DREAM Act, allowing undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition.
In Florida, voters defeated a measure that called for amending the state constitution to restrict abortion rights and bar public funds from funding abortions.
In California, voters defeated a ballot measure to repeal the death penalty and another that would have required labeling of genetically modified foods. A separate measure to ease penalties for nonviolent offenses under California’s "three-strikes" law was approved. California voters also rejected a measure that would have curbed the political influence of unions.
In a historic move, voters in Colorado and Washington state have legalized marijuana for recreational use, becoming the first U.S. states to do so and setting up a potential clash with the federal government.
In Montana, voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that would limit corporate spending on elections, while Colorado voters also resoundingly approved a measure backing a constitutional amendment that would call for the same.
Tuesday’s election saw reports of widespread voting issues ranging from voter machine malfunctions to epic lines to poll-watcher challenges and confusion over voter identification laws that have been weakened or blocked. Florida voters waited up to seven hours to cast their ballots. According to Voting Rights Watch 2012, in Ohio, a number of residents in the predominantly black Cincinnati suburb of Forest Park were forced to cast provisional ballots because records incorrectly showed they had already submitted an absentee ballot. Pennsylvania emerged as a hotbed of election chaos after a viral video showed a voting machine switching an Obama vote in favor of Romney. Pennsylvania also saw widespread confusion over voter identification, with reports poll workers were demanding ID even though a court blocked the state’s voter ID law from taking effect before the election. Voting rights advocates say they suspected an unreported purge of voters in major urban areas of Pennsylvania after reports dozens of voters were told they weren’t registered. According to the Election Protection Coalition, which hosted a hotline for voting issues, there were reports from Virginia of long lines and machines switching votes in favor of Romney. One week after Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey saw its share of problems, with reports of technical malfunctions and poll workers wrongly demanding identification from voters.