The Nightmare Scenario
Nearly everyone remembers, of course, that controversies over the recounting of votes in Florida went on for over a month in that year, until the Supreme Court summarily halted the recounts in progress and handed the election to George W. Bush. (The most thorough post-election study suggested that a full recount of the state--which Gore had not demanded--would have shown Gore to be the winner and thus the new President.)But relatively few of you probably remember one episode in that controversy. As the issue of the state Supreme Court-ordered recount made its way towards the Supreme Court, the Republican-dominated Florida legislature called itself into special session to settle the matter themselves. A bill summarily to certify the Republican electors was halfway through that legislature when the Supreme Court ruled.
Florida, Virginia, and Ohio are three states where the vote is expected to be close, and which have solidly Republican legislatures. If the Republican Party can create enough controversy in the courts over the results so as to last until the deadline for certifying the vote on December 11, their legislatures could try to pull the same trick as the Florida legislature did, and certify Republican electors whether a fair count seems to show a Ryan-Romney victory or not. All three of those states also have Republican governors, and if he certifies the choices, there will be no prima facie basis for questioning these votes when the House and Senate meet to count them in early January. Debates may occur if both Senators and Representatives dispute some of the electors, but it's not at all clear that they could be resolved, and if no President or Vice-President had been chosen by January 20 then John Boehner (or another new Republican speaker, such as Paul Ryan) would become President.
I hope, obviously, that this does not happen, but I do not think at least some of this scenario can be ruled out. That, we learned in 2000, is the world we are living in.