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Obama Prevails in Florida After 4-Day Delay in Vote Count

President Barack Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney in Florida four days after winning a second term, according to the Associated Press, a delayed result that renewed questions about the state’s election process.

The victory in Florida boosted Obama’s electoral vote count to 332, compared with Romney’s 206. A total of 270 was needed to win the White House.

With 100 percent of Florida’ precincts reporting, Obama had 50.0 percent of the vote to Romney’s 49.1 percent, according to the Associated Press. A total of 73,868 votes separated the candidates, according to the state’s election division website.

The biggest prize among states viewed as competitive by both campaigns, Florida’s 29 electoral votes were the last to be decided in this year’s election. By winning other closely contested states -- including Ohio, Nevada and Wisconsin -- Obama assured himself of a second term even without Florida.

Florida was the final state to finish counting ballots in 2000, when it took weeks to tally Republican George W. Bush’s 537-vote margin. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that vote in a challenge waged by the Democratic candidate, former Vice President Al Gore.

This year, election officials said a lengthy ballot caused by 11 constitutional amendments and a record 2.4 million absentee ballots cast slowed the counting. Palm Beach County was the last to turn in absentee results.

Two-Hour Wait

In Miami-Dade County, some voting places remained open as Romney started his concession speech in Boston at 12:55 a.m. New York time on Nov. 7, said Carolina Lopez, a spokeswoman for the county elections office. The ballot was a record 10 pages long and the last Miami voter was one at about midnight, five hours after polls were supposed to close, she said.

Voters in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and Orlando areas waited in line for almost two hours after polls closed, said Ken Detzner, Florida’s secretary of state.

Long lines also delayed counting in Virginia and other states and raised questions about the efficiency of voting in the country. Obama cited the waits that voters faced in his victory speech in Chicago.

“I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time,” Obama said. “By the way, we have to fix that.”

Early Voting

Detzner said the state should expand where counties can locate early polling places, which state law limits to county election offices, public libraries and city halls.

“The number one issue that we need to resolve is more locations for early voting,” Detzner said in an interview on CNN on Nov. 9.

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith blamed long lines on a law signed by Republican Governor Rick Scott cutting from 14 to 8 the number of days early voting polls could open this year.

Scott defended the law. Almost 4.8 million Floridians cast absentee ballots or went to early polling locations, up from 4.5 million four years ago, according to the Florida State Department.

“We did the right thing,” Scott told reporters in Orlando, Florida on Nov. 8.

Florida has been decided by less than three percentage points in four of the past six White House contests, including this year. Obama won the state in 2008 by 2.8 percentage points. The last Democratic candidate to win Florida twice was President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944.

Swing Voters

Both Obama and Romney visited the state in the final days of the campaign, targeting swing voters in the Central Florida suburbs around Orlando and Tampa.

The state’s 10 TV markets aired more than 203,000 presidential TV ads leading up to the general election, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG. Only Ohio saw more.

Florida’s unemployment rate in September was 8.7 percent, above the national figure of 7.9 percent in October and the state’s same as when Obama took office in 2009. Since then, unemployment peaked in Florida at 11.4 percent in February 2010.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael C. Bender in Tallahassee at mbender10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net

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