Gary Susman
March 16, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

The writers may not have Jed Bartlet to kick around anymore, but The West Wing will be back next fall, sources close to the show tell The Hollywood Reporter. (There’s no official word yet from NBC on the renewal.) What the seventh season will look like is anyone’s guess, since it’s still up in the air whether Rep. Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) or Sen. Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) will win the presidential election toward which the drama has been building all season.

The election plot has given the six-year-old show a modest ratings boost this season, and viewers may have to wait until fall to find out who wins. According to the Reporter, producers have contractual options to bring back both Smits and Alda in the seventh season, and Bartlet staffers Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, and John Spencer also remain under contract for another season. In January, Martin Sheen told TV critics he’d be back too, despite the impending end of his character’s two terms as president. It’s unlikely that the new president would keep the old White House staff, but with so much of the current cast apparently returning, it looks like the writers may delay the new president’s inauguration as long as possible. Guess it’s hard to fire career civil servants.

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