Four days later: Obama declared winner of Florida's 29 electoral votes

States will turn RED (Rep.) or BLUE (Dem.) when confirmed by AP. (Refresh the story to update)

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

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

The Florida Secretary of State's Office said that with almost 100 percent of the vote counted, Obama led Republican challenger Mitt Romney 50 percent to 49.1 percent, 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 Nov. 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 in line at 7 p.m. 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.

Posted earlier

Editor's note: As of noon today, the state elections website showed Obama's lead had widened to about 74,000 votes as the final tally comes in. About a dozen counties still had to report their provisional ballot results, including Lee. Obama had 4.236 million votes (50 percent) to Romney's 4.162 million (49.1 percent).

ST. PETERSBURG — Amid much criticism and ridicule, Florida's election officials continued to count ballots on Friday and it's still unclear who won the presidential race in the state.

The margin between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney remained small; as of Friday afternoon Obama had 60,767 votes more than Romney, or 0.72 of the total. Obama had 49.9 percent of the votes and Romney had 49.2 percent.

Counties have a noon Saturday deadline to submit unofficial results to the secretary of state — but the race is too close for The Associated Press to call.

The winner will likely emerge Saturday after the secretary of state receives the unofficial results. Agency spokesman Chris Cate said Saturday is when a recount would be ordered if the final margin is less than one-half of one percent.

State law mandates an automatic machine recount of all ballots if the final margin between the top two candidates is less than one-half of one percent — unless the trailing candidate asked in writing that it not be conducted. Several members of Romney's campaign staff did not return calls for comment Friday. On Thursday, Romney's campaign was not conceding the state and was waiting for the count to be completed.

There is a Nov. 16 deadline for overseas and military ballots, but Cate said under Florida law, recounts are based on the first unofficial results.

Obama already has been declared the overall winner of the presidential election, based on results in the rest of the country. Without Florida and its 29 electoral votes, Obama has won 303 electoral votes to 206 for Romney.

It's normal for election supervisors in Florida and elsewhere 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.

But on election night this year, it was difficult for officials — and the media — to call the presidential race here, in part because voting stretched into the evening and officials weren't able to tally all of the votes right away.

In Miami-Dade, for instance, so many people were in line at 7 p.m. in certain precincts that some folks 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 garnered criticism for 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.

Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio — who also previously served as Hillsborough County's supervisor of elections — announced on Facebook on Friday that she is organizing a statewide review of voting. She had hoped that the state had moved past the recount of 2000 between George W. Bush and Al Gore, which made the Florida the nation's laughingstock.

"After the 2000 election debacle we set out to improve technology and the laws so that Florida's 67 counties could have standardized processes," she wrote. "What I saw in the past 4 weeks has been a setback for our state."

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Comments » 1

1Paradiselost writes:

Congratulations Klaus.......

Glad to see all those multi-million donors get their millions ripped off by Karl Rove and their FOX news friends. I thought Rove was going to start crying on camera. The man was in such denial of reality when they called OHIO for President Obama.

How many poor families could have been fed with the money the Republicans spent lying to the American public?

Did anyone notice that Romney carried all the former Confederate States? It sickens me to see that racism is alive and well in the south, as well noted in this newspaper from many who blog here.

The Republican party has lost it's way, and soon will find it self going the way of the dinosaur.

The majority of American has spoken! The election is over. Time for us ALL to support America the country we love and move FORWARD!

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