Saturday, November 10, 2012

Florida finally finishes counting its votes

As the New York Times reported today:
President Obama was re-elected Tuesday. Mitt Romney’s campaign conceded defeat in Florida on Thursday. And a few indefatigable politicians are already planning on making pit stops in Iowa.

But in Florida, time stood still — until Saturday. After days of counting absentee ballots, the official results are in, at last: To the surprise of no one, Mr. Obama narrowly beat out his Republican rival 50 percent to 49.1 percent, a difference of about 74,000 votes.
This result gives Obama an Electoral College majority of 332-206. That's a somewhat smaller margin than the 365-173 majority by which Obama won in 2008, but not drastically smaller. (George W. Bush, by comparison, got 271 electoral votes in 2000 and 286 electoral votes in 2004.) Barack Obama is also the first presidential candidate since Reagan (and the second since Eisenhower)  to get a majority, not just a plurality, of the popular vote in two successive elections.
The state is consumed by finger-pointing and finger-wagging as election officials, lawmakers and voters try to make sense of what went wrong on Election Day and during early voting. A record number of Florida voters — 8.4 million, or 70 percent of those registered — cast ballots. Of those, 2.1 million people voted early, and 2.4 million sent absentee ballots.

Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, said he planned to meet with the state’s top election official, Ken Detzner, the secretary of state, to see how Florida could improve the process. And the mayor of Miami-Dade County, where voters endured the state’s longest lines, has formed a task force to find out what went wrong.
What went wrong? It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry. Details aside, there's a pretty easy two-part answer to that question. There does seem to be a good deal of dysfunction and incompetence built into Florida's voting system—a problem that has been notorious since 2000, and that no one seems to have made very effective efforts to fix since then. But the other key factor is that for this election the Republicans, led by Governor Scott, did everything they could to gum up the works in order to reduce, discourage, or prevent turnout by potential Democratic voters. Fortunately, these efforts at voter suppression and disenfranchisement seem to have failed—and may even have backfired, provoking greater turnout by African-American voters and increasing their determination to stay in line for hours until they got to the polls.

The report on Florida from Reuters adds another interesting wrinkle to the story:
Exit polls indicate that Obama picked up 61 percent of Florida's Hispanic vote to 39 percent for Romney, underscoring the Republican Party's lack of appeal to the country's fastest-growing electoral group.

South Florida's large Cuban-American community, usually a solid Republican voting bloc, also voted for the Democrats in record numbers, according to exit poll data released by the Obama campaign.

Obama won 48 percent of the Cuban-American vote, and upset Romney in Miami's Little Havana district, considered the heart of the Cuban exile community, where a survey of precincts showed Obama won 56 percent of ballots cast.
And according to a Wall Street Journal poll (reported here):
Cuban-born voters broke for Mitt Romney by a 55-45 percent margin. However, among Cuban-Americans born in the United States, President Barack Obama carried the group by a 60-40 percent margin.
If those polling figures are even remotely accurate, the patterns they indicate have very significant long-run implications.

—Jeff Weintraub