* Three of Florida's 67 counties still tallying votes
* Governor Rick Scott denies blame for gridlock
* Election expert sees lack of "customer service" in Florida
By Tom Brown
MIAMI, Nov 8 President Barack Obama held a
narrow but apparently insurmountable lead in Florida's
slow-moving presidential race on Thursday, putting him on track
toward a clean sweep of the U.S. battleground states and a boost
in his Electoral College vote total from Tuesday's election.
The vote count in what one official dubbed Florida's
"perfect storm" election was still under way on Thursday.
As of Thursday afternoon, Obama, a Democrat, had 49.9
percent of the statewide vote versus 49.24 percent for
Republican Mitt Romney, according to the Florida Division of
But two of the three counties where ballots were still being
tallied, Broward and Palm Beach, are heavily Democratic. The
third county, Duval, has more registered Democrats than
Republicans, but has traditionally leaned Republican in
Just 55,852 votes separate the two candidates, but that was
far more than in 2000, when George W. Bush won Florida by 537
votes and captured the White House.
The glacially slow vote count in Florida has already made it
the brunt of jokes on late night television and conjured up ugly
memories of the situation 12 years ago, when Florida was the
cause of electoral gridlock.
This time, the Sunshine State almost seemed irrelevant since
Obama handily won re-election without Florida's 29 Electoral
College votes, which was the biggest prize of any of the nine
U.S. swing states.
No officials were willing on Thursday to predict exactly
when the race in the fourth most populous U.S. state, which has
a total of 67 counties, would be decided. But barring any big
surprises, Obama looked set to get a bump from Florida that
would lift his electoral vote count to 332 over 206 for Romney.
In comments in Orlando on Thursday, Republican Governor Rick
Scott refused to accept any responsibility for Florida's
failure, yet again, to hold an election that was free of voting
issues and controversy.
Scott's decision not to extend early voting ahead of
Election Day, after it was cut back from 14 to eight days by
Scott and the Republican-controlled legislature, has been cited
as one cause of exceedingly long voter lines at many precincts
throughout the state on Tuesday.
"We did the right thing," Scott told Reuters.
The length of ballots, which included 11 proposed state
constitutional amendments backed by the legislature, has also
been blamed for long lines at polling places and delays in
tallying final results. But Scott said: "The amendments don't go
through the governor. The amendments only go through the
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has cited the length and
complexity of the ballot, reduced early voting opportunities and
an unexpectedly large volume of absentee ballots for many of the
election-related problems in his county, which accounts for
about 10 percent of Florida nearly 12 million registered voters.
The vote count in Miami-Dade, excluding provisional ballots
still pending, finally ended on Thursday.
"This is what you would call a perfect storm down here in
Florida in terms of our elections," Gimenez told CNN. "Without a
doubt we had some operational issues that we have to take care
of," he said.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology political science
professor Charles Stewart, a co-director of the Caltech/MIT
Voting Technology Project, said there were many issues that need
to be addressed in the state where ballot gridlock seems to
happen every four years.
He said one problem that needs to be addressed swiftly is
the fact that county supervisors of elections in Florida win
their jobs through partisan elections, rather than, as in
California, are professionals hired for their ability to deal
with complex logistical maneuvers.
As a former health care executive, Scott prides himself on
his record a hard-charging former CEO who made a fortune running
one of the biggest hospital chains in the nation. But the lack
of a businesslike approach to elections, the ritual at the heart
of American democracy, is all too apparent in Florida, Stewart
"There are other states with close races and they don't seem
to have these problems. There are other states with even longer
ballots and they don't have these problems," Stewart said.
"When the same mistakes and the same problems come in year
after year after year, it tells you that just the basics of
crowd management and customer service are not being applied," he