Saturday, 17 November 2012

Hanging chads and Obama's victory in Florida

President Barack Obama was declared the winner of Florida's 29 electoral votes on Saturday, ending a four-day count with a margin so small that it narrowly avoided a recount that would echo that events of 2000. No matter the outcome, Obama had already won re-election, but he now has 332 electoral votes to Romney's 206. 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.

However the election has highlighted some major issues in voting, such as was seen in the UK, where more people watched the X Factor then voted in the 2010 general election. In Miami-Dade, so many people were in line at 7 pm that some people didn't vote until after midnight. Some people are now criticizing Florida's voting process due to the hours-long wait at the polls in some areas, a lengthy ballot and the fact that Governor Rick Scott refused to extend early voting hours.Some officials have vowed to investigate why there were problems at the polls and how that led to a lengthy vote count.  

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. A hanging chad is when the voter fails to fully punch a hole in the punch-card ballot. In the presidential election of 2000 between Bush and Al Gore, the vote tally in the Sunshine State was so close that manual counting had to be used. Photos showed counters holding punch-card ballots up to the light to try and determine if a voter had meant to poke a chad through or not. But 2000 wasn't the only time when the election results came down to counters inspecting ballots to try and decipher voter intent. In 1996 a Democratic primary for a house seat in Massachusetts was settled by carefully inspecting ballots. In 1990 and 1981 there were court cases in Illinois over whether counting hanging chads was an appropriate method of deciding who wins the election.

In 2000 the Florida recount ended with a tally of 2,909,176 votes for Bush and 2,907,451 for Gore. In winning Florida, the national electoral vote swung in Bush's favour. Though Gore won the popular vote with a national total of 51,003,894 votes to Bush's 50,459,211, Bush still won the presidency.