Ballots for the presidential race were still being counted in Florida on Wednesday. President Obama appeared to be leading the state, but does not need it to secure his re-election.
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Florida is the only state that remains too close to call in the presidential election, and absentee ballots are still being counted. Right now, President Obama has the lead but by less than 1 percent of the vote. The final tally in Florida will not alter the outcome of the national race, but if the president's margin of victory in Florida drops below one half of 1 percent, it could trigger a statewide recount. NPR's Greg Allen has more from Miami.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: It was a good day for Democrats across the country, nowhere more so than in Florida.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
ALLEN: That was the scene in Orlando last night at Democratic Party headquarters. The Florida race was still too close to call, but it turned out President Obama didn't need the Sunshine State. He received enough electoral votes to put him over the top while Florida was still counting. In Miami-Dade County, they were still counting absentee ballots today. Deputy Supervisor of Elections Christina White says the length of the ballot - 10 to 12 pages - held up the voting process and caused lines so long that the last voters didn't finish Miami-Dade until after 1 a.m. The same ballot that took so long to fill out was also taking longer to tabulate, but Christina White isn't making any apologies.
CHRISTINA WHITE: Yes, we did have lines and in some cases very long lines. We understand that, and we'll be reviewing that after the election as we typically do to see how improvements can be made. But the, you know, all in all, precincts, I believe, were conducted very, very well.
ALLEN: With the painful memory of the 2000 presidential recount seared into their brains, elections officials here are understandably sensitive about charges that they may have mishandled the voting process. For months, Democrats and election supervisors from both parties predicted trouble, and they blame Republican politicians. Florida's Republican-controlled legislature reduced the number of days for early voting and included 11 complicated constitutional amendments on the ballot, all printed out in full. The head of Florida's Democratic Party, Rod Smith, believes it was an attempt to suppress the vote, but Obama supporters, he says, were persistent.
ROD SMITH: I thought our people were so dedicated to showing that you can't do this and not have consequence. And it did have consequences that I thought were - that bounced back against them. We came out with 167,000 early vote lead. That will be three to four times what the margin of victory is. That tells you how important it was, and I think what they tried to do they didn't accomplish.
ALLEN: It was a win for Democrats but also a repudiation for Florida's Republican-led legislature. Most of the amendments they put on the ballot were rejected. Democrats picked up seats in both the State House and Senate. Also coasting to victory last night was Democratic Senator Bill Nelson who said it's time for a new tone in Florida.
SENATOR BILL NELSON: It's an extremely polarized, excessively partisan, ideologically rigid political environment, and the people are tired of that.
ALLEN: Also helped by newly drawn district maps, Democrats appeared to pick up three Florida congressional seats formerly held by Republicans. One of those belonged to Tea Party conservative Allen West who is still contesting the outcome. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.