Obama wins Florida after lengthy vote tally

Posted at 11/11/2012 9:44 AM | Updated as of 11/11/2012 4:44 PM

MIAMI - President Barack Obama has won Florida's 29 electoral votes, further fattening his substantial margin of victory over Mitt Romney in what had been predicted to be a close White House race.

The Sunshine State was the last to report its tally from the November 6 election, in which Obama won a second term, defeating his Republican rival Romney.

With Florida's electoral college votes now in the Democratic incumbent's column, the final total was 332 for Obama, against 206 for Romney.

Obama earned 50 percent of the vote to Romney's 49.1 percent -- about 74,000 more votes among more than eight million ballots cast, according to county tallies provided to the state before a noon (1700 GMT) Saturday deadline.

Republicans have control of both houses in Florida's state legislature and the governor's mansion, but a growing Hispanic and more liberal-leaning population are pushing the electorate toward Obama's Democrats.

Florida was arguably the most coveted prize on election day, with more electoral college votes up for grabs than any of the other so-called swing states.

In 2000, Democrat Al Gore, who won the US popular vote, lost the election to Republican George W. Bush, who triumphed under the electoral college system when a divided US Supreme Court stopped a ballot recount in Florida.

But in the end, Florida did not play a pivotal role in the national race this time. Obama was confirmed the winner Tuesday, earning enough electoral college votes without the state to pass the 270 threshold needed for victory.

Governor Rick Scott said the turnout in his state had reached record levels, but said the long delays must not be repeated.

There were "more votes cast than in any other election in state history," Scott said in a statement on Saturday.

"We are glad that so many voters made their voices heard in this election, but as we go forward we must see improvements in our election process."

He said he had asked top officials at the state and county level to review election procedures, "especially those who ran elections in counties where voters experienced long lines of four hours or more."

Deputy Elections Supervisor Christina White had earlier said the delays in the southeastern state were not due to "any problems or glitches. It's about volume and paper left to be processed."

But at least two Florida vote experts saw the chaos as the result of a raw, bare-knuckled Republican attempt to suppress turnout.

Republican state officials have been "intentionally under-supplying voting places and equipment" to create bottlenecks in traditionally Democratic strongholds, "thereby reducing Democratic voting and manipulating the election outcome," said Lance deHaven-Smith at Florida State University.

Charles Zelden, a history and law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, also said the state's Republican legislature wanted to slow down voting for partisan purposes.

He pointed to a law signed by Scott last year that reduced the number of early voting days from 14 to eight and eliminated early voting on the Sunday before election day.

Democrats tend to do better in early voting, so the measures were seen as likely to have benefited Romney.

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