By now, you're probably wondering why Florida hasn't been called for Obama. CNN, Politico, the New York Times, and just about every other site have Obama in the lead with 100% of precincts reporting, and it's been that way since Wednesday. Is Florida just milking its status as a swing state to get attention? Nope. A really, really long ballot, sadly-typical disorganization, and a large number of absentee votes are simply extending the initial counting process. And in the unlikely event that Obama's margin dips below 0.5% (it's currently 0.64%), an automatic recount will be triggered.
Follow me below the Fleur-de-Kos for the detailed breakdown.
The Florida Secretary of State lists these statewide results from Florida:
Romney-Ryan 4,120,025 49.25%
Obama-Biden 4,173,275 49.89%
(Wondering why the Democratic ticket is second? Florida law holds that the party that won the last race for Governor appears first on the ballot and the party that came in second appears second.)
But election workers are still counting absentee ballots.
Miami-Dade County, a populous region that was also in the spotlight in 2000, also experienced high turnout and a long ballot. As of Wednesday, they were still dealing with the consequences:
Suzy Trutie, spokeswoman for Miami-Dade County, blames the number of voters and a complex 10-page ballot. The county has 1.3 million voters and saw more than 405,000 show up on Election Day and another 237,000 vote during eight days of early balloting. She said election workers spent Wednesday trying to verify and count 210,000 absentee ballots.Charles Stewart, a political scientist from MIT, blames the continued politicization of election offices and restricted early-vote periods.
She also blames voters, saying some took as long as 40 minutes to complete the ballot before feeding it into a scanner. "The reason we had long lines ... was the length of the ballot and how long it took each person to fill out the ballot," she says.
The failures are more human than technical, he says. Florida's elections are run by supervisors who are in most cases elected officials themselves rather than non-partisan professionals.Despite these inefficiencies, counting should finish today in Miami-Dade County; there are only 10,000 votes left to tally. Eight other delayed counties are already done. Barring last-minute plot twists, an Obama victory seems almost inevitable. In the unlikely event that 10,000 votes go to Romney and none to Obama, Obama would still have a 0.52% lead.
"Supervisors continue to be highly autonomous ... and with some important exceptions are more political operatives than they are professional managers,'' says Stewart, who grew up in Orlando and has studied the state's voting systems.
According to a report (PDF) authored by the Brennan Center for Justice, Florida's automatic recount is triggered whenever a candidate's margin of victory is less than 0.5%. (This report is the source for Florida election facts in the remainder of the diary.) Candidates can also
contest the certification of an election in court on the basis of misconduct, fraud, corruption, bribery, ineligibility of the successful candidate, or receipt of a number of illegal votes or rejection of a number of legal votes sufficient to change or place in doubt the result of the election.There are no allegations of fraud, though that may not last. If there's one thing we have learned in this election cycle, it's that Republicans are Very Concerned about vast voter fraud conspiracies regardless of such inconvenient things as concrete evidence.
So when will we know for sure?
The easy (and cynical) answer is December 11th, when states must make final calls on appointing electors. But we should know sooner. Florida law provides that unofficial results must be submitted by noon on the fourth day after the election, or Saturday, November 10th. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by November 6th and received by the 16th. Official returns, including absentee and provisional ballots, must be filed by noon on the twelfth day after the election, or Sunday, November 18th.
In sum, Florida should get its act together by the end of the day. Florida's lean-blue (or uncalled) status should shift to actually-blue, and we'll be missing out on weeks of thrilling intent-of-the-voter interpretations.
P.S. If there are challenges to the Presidential vote, or to Allen West's narrow Congressional loss, the criteria for deciding them should be much more rigorous than in 2000. If you're curious, go to the link to read about how voters' intent can be determined by, among many other things, the voter's
drawing a diagonal or vertical line that intersects an imaginary line extending from the center of the head of a single arrow to the center of the tail of the same arrow, provided the line does not intersect the imaginary lining joining another arrow.