ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CBSMiami) — President Barack Obama can finally claim victory in Florida.
After four days of grueling vote counting, the president won by 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.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reports 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.
“Finally,” one voter in Fort Lauderdale said upon hearing the news Florida’s electoral votes had been awarded to President Obama. “We look like a joke. A friend told me we should only get one electoral vote in the future so we don’t have so much say in who gets elected.”
Some officials have vowed to investigate why there were problems at the polls and how that led to a lengthy vote count.
A statement from Gov. Scott late Saturday afternoon reads, in part:
“I have asked Secretary of State Ken Detzner to review this general election and report on ways we can improve the process after all the races are certified.
As part of this evaluation, Secretary Detzner will meet with County Election Supervisors, who are elected or appointed to their position – especially those who ran elections in counties where voters experienced long lines of four hours or more.
We need to make improvements for Florida voters and it is important to look at processes on the state and the county level.”
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.
(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)