WASHINGTON  - President Barack Obama has won Florida’s 29 electoral votes in the presidential election, further fattening his substantial margin of victory in what had been predicted to be a close race.
The state was the last to report its tally from the election last Tuesday, in which Obama beat Republican Mitt Romney. With Florida’s votes in the electoral college, the president’s total goes up to 332, against 206 for Romney. Obama earned around 74,000 more votes than Romney among more than eight million votes cast, a narrow victory in a closely contested state, US networks said. They cited figures from vote totals that Florida counties provided to the state, under a noon (1700 GMT) Saturday deadline. Republicans have control of both houses in Florida’s state legislature and the governor’s mansion, but a growing Hispanic and more liberal population are pushing the electorate toward Obama’s Democrats. Florida was arguably the most coveted prize on election day, with more electoral college votes up for grabs than any of the other states that swing between Republican and Democratic control in the presidential poll.
In 2000 Democrat Al Gore, who won the US popular vote, lost the election to Republican George W. Bush, who triumphed under the electoral college system when a divided US Supreme Court stopped a ballot recount in Florida.
But in the end, the Sunshine state did not play a pivotal role in the national race this time, in which Barack Obama was confirmed the winner Tuesday night, earning enough electoral college votes in other states to easily pass the 270 threshold needed for victory. And Florida’s votes were still being counted days later. Deputy Elections Supervisor Christina White in the southeastern state blamed the delay on an unusually long ballot and high voter turnout. “It’s not that there were any problems or glitches. It’s about volume and paper left to be processed,” said White.
But at least two Florida vote experts saw the chaos as the result of a raw, bare-knuckled Republican attempt to suppress turnout.
Republican state officials have been “intentionally under-supplying voting places and equipment” to create bottlenecks in traditionally Democratic strongholds, “thereby reducing Democratic voting and manipulating the election outcome,” said Lance deHaven-Smith at Florida State University.
Charles Zelden, a history and law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, said the southern state’s Republican legislature wanted to slow down voting for partisan purposes.
He pointed to a law signed last year by Governor Rick Scott reducing the number of early voting days from 14 to eight and eliminating early voting on the Sunday before election day.
Democrats tend do better in early voting, so limiting the number of people voting ahead of election day would likely have favoured Romney.