PINELLAS COUNTY - The unofficial vote totals of county residents showed President George W. Bush with a slight lead most of election night; however, as of 4:09 a.m. Wednesday with 380 of 380 precincts reporting, challenger John Kerry had closed the gap between them to 280 votes.
The totals, posted on the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections' Web site, do not account for absentee or provisional ballots. Of the 590,989 registered voters in the county, 454,994, or about 78 percent, cast their ballots in the presidential election. Earlier on Tuesday, county election officials were hoping for a record turnout. The record was set in 1992 when 85 percent of voters cast their ballots for president.
Statewide, voters favored the president. The unofficial count posted on the Florida Department of State Division of Elections' Web site at 4:34 a.m., with 98.2 percent of the votes tallied, showed that Florida registered voters preferred Bush, giving the president a 52.1 percent lead over Kerry with 47.1 percent. At midnight, the Associated Press made the call that Bush had won Florida, giving the president its 27 electoral votes.
The unofficial totals in the race for U.S. Senator, posted on the Pinellas County's election site as of 4:09 a.m., gave Democrat Betty Castor the lead with 52.7 percent of the vote to Republican Mel Martinez with 44.4 percent.
With 98.3 percent of state votes counted, Martinez had a slim advantage with 49.3 percent of the vote to Castor's 48.4, as of 4:45 a.m.
In the other federal races, incumbent Republican Michael Bilirakis was the clear winner of the District 9 House seat with 98.2 percent of the county vote and 100 percent statewide. Incumbent Republican C.W. Bill Young also retained his District 10 seat with 69.3 percent of the county vote to his opponent Democrat Robert D. "Bob" Derry's 30.6 percent.
Incumbent Republican Mike Fasano was ahead in both the county and state totals for the District 11 Senate seat. Fasano led challenger Democrat Steve Mattingly with 65.4 percent of the county vote and 64.6 percent of the total votes cast in the race.
Incumbent Republican Tom Anderson had the most votes in the race for the District 45 House seat. Countywide Anderson received 65.6 percent of the vote to his challenger Democrat Kevin Jensen's 34.3 percent. Statewide, Anderson also was in the lead with 62 percent of the total votes cast.
Republican incumbent Leslie Waters showed a commanding lead of 61.6 percent to retain her District 51 House position. Waters was opposed by Democrat Mike Smith, who received 34.9 percent, and Mike Sullivan, no party association, who picked up 3.4 percent of the vote.
Republican incumbent Frank Frakas led challenger Democrat Liz McCallum with 52.5 percent of the vote to retain his position as District 52 House Representative.
In the nonpartisan race for the Judge of the Circuit Court, Group 22, Cynthia Newton received 51.5 percent of the Pinellas County vote to Jack Day's 48.5 percent. Pasco County voters also had a say in this race, casting 54.9 percent for Newton and 45.1 percent for Day.
Statewide, voters easily approved seven of the eight Constitutional Amendments on the Nov. 2 ballot. Amendment No. 4 to approve the use of slot machines in parimutuel facilities appeared to be narrowly defeated. With 98.4 percent of the state's counties reporting, the no votes were 50.1 percent to the yes votes of 49.9 percent. The Pinellas County vote mirrored that of state voters, also approving all but No. 4.
Constitutional Amendment No. 1, which will require parental notification of minor's termination of pregnancy, received 60.1 percent of the county vote to approve the measure. Statewide, 64.7 percent approved.
Constitutional Amendment No. 2, changing the way citizen's initiatives are processed, was approved by 60 percent of county voters and 68 percent of state voters.
Constitutional Amendment No. 3, the medical liability claimant's amendment, passed in the county by 61 percent and statewide by 63.5 percent.
Constitutional Amendment No. 5, raising the state's minimum wage, also was approved. County voters said yes with 72 percent of the vote. And 70.8 percent of state voters also said yes.
Constitutional Amendment No. 6 to repeal the high-speed rail was passed by 64 percent of county voters and 63.7 percent of state voters.
Constitutional Amendment No. 7, giving patients the right to know about adverse medical incidents, passed countywide by 82.1 percent and statewide by 80.8 percent.
Constitutional Amendments No. 8, giving the public protection for repeated medical malpractice, was endorsed by 65 percent of county voters and 70.6 percent of state voters.
Possible counting glitches
Results had been posted at the county's election Web site at a rapid pace up until 12:36 a.m. when the page update time remained at 11:36 p.m. A map of counted votes showed that six precincts had not been processed at all as of 1 a.m., and 13 precincts were reportedly still being processed.
Just after 1 a.m., the totals updated showing the time of 11:56 p.m., adding the vote count from precinct 420 in Indian Rocks Beach. At 1:15 a.m., the page updated to show the current time, and the votes from one additional precinct were added.
The phone number given to the media to get information had been switched to a recording as of midnight, so no explanation was available for the delays.