President Barack Obama explains his plan for America’s future to a crowd in Seminole Sept. 8.
From the time early results were posted on the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office Nov. 6, it was apparent that Pinellas County voters favored President Barack Obama for four more years.
Unofficial results at votepinellas.com updated on Nov. 9, showed Obama ahead in Pinellas with just over 52 percent of the 458,898 votes cast to almost 46.5 percent for the Republican Mitt Romney. The tally included votes cast for nine minor party candidates and write-in votes.
Florida remained too close to call until Saturday when Elections officials finally announced that Obama had garnered the majority of the popular vote to grab the state’s 29 electoral votes. According to results from the Florida Department of State Division of Elections, Obama received 50 percent of 8,470,242 votes cast in the presidential election. Romney picked up 49.14 percent with the rest split between 14 other candidates.
The Electoral College will meet Dec. 17 to cast their votes. Congress will count the vote on Jan.6. As of Nov. 11, Obama had 332 electoral votes to 206 for Romney. A candidate must receive at least 270 to win.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott released a statement Saturday afternoon shortly after the noon deadline for county canvassing boards to report election results to the state.
“Around 8.5 million Floridians voted in this general election – more votes than in any other election in state history,” Scott said. “A record of nearly 4.8 million Floridians also voted early and (used) absentee (mail) ballots. We are glad so many voters made their voices heard in this election, but as we go forward we must see improvement in our election process.”
Complaints came in from across the state about long lines and waits of four hours of more at some polling places.
“We need to make improvements for Florida voters, and it is important to look at processes on the state and county level,” Scott said. “We will carefully review suggestions for bettering the voting process in our state.”
Not perfect in Pinellas
Pinellas County didn’t have a problem with long lines. Newly reelected Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said, “Things went smoothly,” when asked for comment after the polls closed Nov. 6. She said she was pleased with the number of mail ballots requested and returned this year. She was happy with the turnout and that people weren’t deterred by the four-page ballot.
Pinellas County’s registered voters requested a record 308,842 ballots and 80.6 percent were returned. The previous record was set in 2010 when 258,606 mail ballots were requested; 72.5 percent were returned.
But Election Day wasn’t perfect in Pinellas. The night of Thursday, Nov. 8, Elections officials were continuing to respond to requests for information from Tampa Bay Times about robocalls that went out the morning of Nov. 6 encouraging citizens to return their mail ballots “by 7 p.m. tomorrow.”
Clark released another explanation to all media sources about what happened.
“On Nov. 5, at 4:50 p.m., we used an automated dialing service to initiate a courtesy call to 38,702 Pinellas County voters to remind them that the election was tomorrow and to return their mail ballot by 7 p.m. Election Day, Clark said. “ It was anticipated that the calls would be completed by 8 p.m. that day.
“On Nov. 6 at 8:44 a.m., we discovered that all of the calls were not completed on Nov. 5, and the remaining calls had resumed at 8 a.m. In an effort to avoid any confusion to our voters, we immediately stopped the calls and within 22 minutes of the discovery sent an update message.”
Clark said 96 percent of the affected voters received the updated message within the hour, and 99 percent by 11:02 a.m.
“Staff made repeated calls to the remaining 46 voters throughout the day and all but 16 voters were reached,” Clark said. “This was a voter outreach to encourage our voters to return their mail ballots by the legal deadline. We regret any inconvenience which may have resulted.”
Nancy Whitlock, Pinellas County Elections administrator, added that Elections staff did not restart the calls or log into the calling system until 8:34 a.m., which was done to stop the calls and update the message to change the word “tomorrow” to Election Day.
Whitlock said staff had scheduled the calls to go out between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Nov. 5.
“We thought all of the calls would be made that day,” she said. “We did not want the calls to be made on Election Day.”
Although not yet official, voter turnout in Pinellas was 73.7 percent, which includes ballots cast on Election Day, early voting, mail ballots and provisional ballots. It was the second highest turnout, behind the 77.47 percent turnout reported in 2004.
Whitlock said official results would not be released until Nov. 16 after the 10 days allowed for overseas ballots has passed. State officials said only a handful of overseas and military ballots are believed to remain outstanding.