independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Obama declared winner in Florida

President Barack Obama can finally claim election victory in Florida (AP)

US President Barack Obama was declared the winner of Florida's 29 electoral votes, ending a four-day count with a razor-thin margin that narrowly avoided an automatic recount that would have brought back memories of the 2000 election.

No matter the outcome, Mr Obama had already clinched re-election and now has 332 electoral votes to Republican challenger Mitt Romney's 206.

The Florida Secretary of State's Office said that with almost 100% of the vote counted, Mr Obama led Mr Romney 50% to 49.1%, a difference of about 74,000 votes. That was over the half-percent margin where a computer recount would have been automatically ordered unless Mr Romney had waived it.

There is a November 16 deadline for overseas and military ballots, but under Florida law, recounts are based on Saturday's results. Only a handful of overseas and military ballots are believed to remain outstanding.

It's normal for election supervisors in Florida and other states to spend days after any election counting absentee, provisional, military and overseas ballots. Usually, though, the election has already been called on election night or soon after because the winner's margin is beyond reach.

But on election night this year, it was difficult for officials - and the media - to call the presidential race here, in part because the margin was so close and the voting stretched into the evening.

In Miami-Dade, for instance, so many people were queueing at 7 pm in certain precincts that some people did not vote until after midnight.

The hours-long wait at the polls in some areas, a lengthy ballot and the fact that Governor Rick Scott refused to extend early voting hours has led some to criticise Florida's voting process. Some officials have vowed to investigate why there were problems at the polls and how that led to a lengthy vote count.

If there had been a recount, it would not be as difficult as the lengthy one in 2000. The state no longer uses punch-card ballots, which became known for their hanging chads. All 67 counties now use optical scan ballots where voters mark their selections manually. Republican George W Bush won the 2000 contest after the Supreme Court declared him the winner over Democrat Al Gore by a scant 537 votes.

The win gave Mr Obama victories in eight of the nine swing states, losing only North Carolina. In addition to Florida, he won Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Virginia, Colorado and Nevada.

Press Association

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