Published November 08, 2012
Twelve years ago, it was hanging chads. This time, it's voters hanging in line -- for hours.
Florida has managed to emerge from yet another presidential election as the lone state on the electoral map without a winner.
Outside of Florida, few care at this point. Mitt Romney was already shut out on election night, with or without Florida.
But the scene of local officials thumbing through ballots long after every other state had been called seemed to reinforce the view that Florida just doesn't do elections like the rest of the country.
"It's an embarrassment," said Pam Iorio, former Tampa mayor who was also president of the State Association of Supervisors of Elections during the 2000 election mess.
Iorio told FoxNews.com that if not for Obama's decisive victory on Tuesday, this could have been 2000 all over again.
"Had the numbers had been a little different ... this would have been a repeat of 2000," she said. "We wouldn't have hanging chads, but we'd have a newer version of it. ... as a Floridian it is very, very disturbing to me."
Iorio said she's going to approach the legislature and governor about forming a bipartisan group to examine what went wrong.
The state's election was marred by a series of problems. The biggest was the long lines, which were particularly bad in Miami-Dade where the wait stretched on for hours, exacerbated in part by the sheer length of the ballot -- a whopping 10 pages.
Officials also were inundated with last-minute absentee ballots.
Iorio said those issues should be addressed as part of any review. She attributed the crush of late absentee ballots to confusion over the state's abbreviated early-voting period -- explaining those who missed the early-voting window and couldn't vote Tuesday then had to scramble to fill out and drop off absentee ballots.
The ballots themselves, meanwhile, were bloated by wordy explanations over a slew of proposed constitutional amendments.
Florida, as the lone blank spot on the electoral map where a winner had not been called, continued the count into Thursday. Absentee ballots were still being counted in the three counties around Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Miami-Dade just finished. The absentee ballot count could finish by the end of Thursday, though thousands of provisional ballots remain.
With 8.3 million votes cast, Obama as of early Thursday afternoon was leading Romney by 56,000 votes -- a fraction of a percent. If the final margin falls within .5 percent, the result could even trigger a recount, pushing the final verdict even further down the calendar. Romney, though, could simply decline the recount. With the media-backed operations that call elections having gone dark, it probably won't be clear who won the state until all votes are tallied.
Officials across Florida expressed dismay at the delayed results.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., in a radio interview, called the vote a "disaster."
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez told the Miami Herald the long lines were "inexcusable." Like Iorio, Gimenez wants a task force assembled to figure out what went wrong.
But Penelope Townsley, elections supervisor in Miami-Dade, said the long count "is simply a matter of sheer volume."
"We're dealing with a tremendous amount of paper, we will continue this process," she told Fox News. "It will be completed, but it will be done so with integrity and accuracy -- every vote will be counted."
By comparison, the votes in 2004 and 2008 went far more smoothly.
Susan MacManus, with the University of South Florida, predicted the problems this year would nevertheless lead to an examination of what Florida did wrong this time around.
"After this, you, I think you'll have another 2000. Get the job done. Get it fixed. Right now. Florida does not need this type of embarrassment," she said.
Fox News' Phil Keating contributed to this report.