Obama wins Florida and tops Romney in final election tally

 

President Barack Obama was declared the winner of Florida's 29 electoral votes today, 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, 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 per cent of the vote counted, Obama led Romney 50 per cent to 49.1 per cent, a difference of about 74,000 votes. That was over the half-percent margin where a computer recount would have been automatically ordered unless Romney had waived it.

There is a 16 November 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 in line at 7 pm in certain precincts that some people didn't vote until after midnight.

The hours-long wait at the polls in some areas, a lengthy ballot and the fact that Gov. Rick Scott refused to extend early voting hours has led some to criticize 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 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.

US presidents are not elected by national popular vote, but in state-by-state contests that allocate electoral votes. Each state gets one electoral vote for each of its representatives in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Washington DC, gets three votes. All told, there are 538 votes in the Electoral College. A candidate must have at least 270 to win. Except for Maine and Nebraska, states award all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the state. In Maine and Nebraska, votes are apportioned by congressional districts.

AP

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